UK Student Debt the Highest of English-Speaking Countries

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Out of the primarily English-speaking countries, UK university graduates are now facing the most debt, according to a new report.

Most British students are now paying £9,000 per year in tuition and usually have more than £44,000 of debt ($65,000) upon graduation, according to the Sutton Trust’s Degrees of Debt report. This is more debt than even private university students in the US accrue, as well as the other nations included in the report – Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Shropshire Star quoted Sir Peter Lampl, the chairperson of the Sutton Trust, who said:

These debt levels are by far the highest in the English-speaking world, and are more than double the average debt levels at universities in the United States, where students study for four-year programs, rather than three.”The impact on the ability of graduates to go to graduate schools, to afford a mortgage, the timing of having children and other major life decisions.

He also had opinions on alternatives:

The cost of going to university has become so expensive that more young people should seriously consider higher level apprenticeships, preferably to degree level.

By choosing this route they will earn while they learn, incur less debt, and develop skills which are greatly valued in the workplace.

The rest of the UK fares much better, according to Julia Glum of the International Business Times. Students in Wales and Northern Ireland tend to owe around £19,000 at graduation, and those in Scotland only £9,000.

In America, graduates owe about £20,500 ($29,000) if they went to a public university and £29,000 ($42,600) if they went to a private school.

Canadian students graduate with the least debt, averaging about £15,000, followed by Australian students at £20,900, and then those in New Zealand at £23,300 in debt.

However, each nation has different loan policies, reports Carly Minsky of the Times of Higher Education. Students in the UK benefit from a program in which loan repayment is based on the graduate’s salary. In the UK and Australia, they can take a “repayment holiday” if their income drops, but only 19% of US students are enrolled in such a plan. UK students also benefit because they owe their money to the government rather than to private companies as in the US, making repayment easier. US students have higher interest rates as well.

Unfortunately for students in the UK, these terms have been altered recently, and maintenance grants for disadvantaged students will now become loans instead.

In the report, the charity asked the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to investigate the impact of the policy changes, as well as a yearly assessment of tuition fee impact by the Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS) Select Committee in the House of Commons. It also recommended the arrangement of better coordination between higher education ministers from each country.

Philip Kirby, the author of the report, said:

There are features of the UK system that are better than those in the US– particularly the income-contingent loans collected by HMRC [the UK tax agency]– but, with significant access gaps remaining, proper monitoring of the changes to student funding from this September is crucial.

Last year a dozen people among thousands were arrested during a protest for free education in London.

Still, the government stated that the current education system doesn’t need to be changed. A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills said:

More people than ever before are now able to benefit from higher education, and the application rate for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is at a record level.