The housing debt held by Australians is $1 trillion more than the debt that is giving Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey headaches.

Analysis by the Bureau of Statistics reveals that the amount of debt owed on the nation's houses, units and holiday homes is at an all-time high.

According to the bureau, total housing debt reached $1.4 trillion at the end of last year.

That equates to more than $59,200 for every person living in the country. After adjusting for inflation, the debt per person has surpassed anything on record.

In 1988, total housing debt was $9300 per person in today's money.

At the peak of the pre-global financial crisis property boom, it reached $49,100 (in today's money), but has since climbed even faster.

By contrast, the total debt on issue held by the Federal Government will this year hit $320 billion.

While debt per person is at a record high, about 40 per cent of the population do not hold a mortgage, meaning the $1.4 trillion in debt is held by 60 per cent of households.

Only one other area of debt has increased as sharply in recent years - loans held by university students.

The Government plans to allow universities to set their own fees and increase the interest on student debts while cutting funding to the sector.

Opponents claim the move will dramatically increase the debts held by students.

The bureau's figures show student debt levels are already on the climb.

In 2003-04, the average household study loan debt was $13,900. Today it stands at $17,200.

The National Tertiary Education Union said yesterday that it had polling showing 70 per cent of Australians opposed an increase in university fees.

Union president Jeannie Rea said the changes would leave some students with debts of more than $100,000 that would not be paid off until they were in their 40s and 50s.

"Australians do not want an Americanised system," she said.

"They want to protect the current system that trains students for high-skilled jobs, promotes research and critical thinking - and is equal and accessible."

The West Australian

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