With levels of student debt unprecedented and rising in many democracies, growing attention has been given by academics and practitioners to its possible effects for student wellbeing. This article makes three contributions to this debate. First, it offers a critical review of literature that considers the relationship of student debt and wellbeing to open up discussion about the dimensions, limitations and possibilities of the field. Second, the paper points to potential avenues for future research about student debt and wellbeing by considering indicative comments made by New Zealand university students as part of a series of in-depth interviews. Third, the article makes a practical contribution to current debates about the tuition ‘fees free’ policy in New Zealand. We argue that developing a more robust understanding of how student debt affects wellbeing may help to broaden and reinvigorate academic and public debate about student debt.