DISCLAIMER: The following article is the opinion of its author and does not represent the views of the People’s Assembly or of any political party
The other week I received my annual statement from the Student Loans Company stating what what I owe in total over my 3 years in university (I graduated a year ago). I was astounded to see that on top of my tuition fees of over £3,000 a year, I have been charged interest at £4 a month for my first year, £6 a month for my second, £8 a month for my third and since I graduated £12 a month.
So take my total debt form tuition fees, (approximately £3,300 x 3 years in University) = £9,900, add to that the interest racked up while I was there (12 x 4 + 12 x 6 + 12 x 8) that’s just over £200, bringing the total so far up to £10,100. Then add the interest put on since I graduated (12 x 12) that’s just under £150 a year, taking the total I owe so far up to £10,250, so I have accumulated £350 worth of interest (£200 while in uni, £150 since) on top of my existing tuition fees. This is effectively a tax of £150 per year for the pleasure of earning a qualification which has so far failed to get me employed in a job related to my degree or in any other industry for that matter, you can find out more about my employment situation here.
At no point did the Student Loans company say that their was to be interest charged on my tuition fees. But I should expect nothing less for an organisation which makes it as hard as possible for anyone needing financial help in higher education, over the 3 years I dealt with the Student Loans Company I had the incorrect amount of money given to me every single time (9 in total) I was due a payment. So that’s 9 times of visiting the my universities financial councilor to find out what went wrong (as it is impossible to get through to the right person yourself). It was always the same excuse, a ‘computer error’ which they never got to the bottom of.
I’ve spent extended periods of time wondering how I would even afford to travel to my campus never mind feeding buying dinner (lunch to all you southerners) and concentrating on lectures and essays (I didn’t attend my own graduation because I couldn’t afford my gown and hat, I hadn’t received any payments for a year). At one point I was so desperate I traveled down to their headquarters in Darlington, where I was again told it was a ‘computer error’, a waste of a couple of hours for me but for someone further afield it could be a waste of a whole day of studying.
This 3 year long running admin problem of course effected the amount of time I had to complete my assignments; I’m not saying it affected my final grade, but I could have done without doing the Student Loan Companies job for them through an important period of my education. Thankfully I am free of that now, but it has been replaced by an equally bureaucratic and disdainful body, the Jobcentre; but I’ll save that story for another time.
And I’m one of the lucky ones believe it or not, I didn’t take the option of a maintenance loan like many of my fellow students did (I only took the free maintenance grant and received bursaries). That’s another £500 3 times a year (£4,500 in total) to pay back with associated interest. And I haven’t even got around to the first batch of students who will be graduating in a years time with a massive £9,000 per year (£27,000) tuition fees. So if you are in the unluckiest position of all, which will look like this:
- You are currently finishing your 1st or 2nd year of university you may be about to start in September
- You may go or be going to a university away from home so you have applied for the maintenance loan for rent, course materials and food
- Your parents/guardians way earn more than what is permitted to receive bursaries from your university or even for the free maintenance grant
In short, you will be charged tuition fees plus interest, a maintenance loan plus interest and have no financial support from income based grants.
After some complex calculations, upon graduation you now owe a staggering £32,527, that’s your £27,000 tuition fees, plus you £4,500 maintenance loan, the total interest on both of these loans while you are still studying adding up to £1,027. And for every year after that your debt will rise by around £700 depending on how much you pay back that year. I’m not even going to attempt to calculate what happens if you choose to do a MA and/or a PHD.
Today’s job market means that if you are lucky enough to land a job straight out of university (which a lot don’t, including myself) it will more often than not be at or just above the minimum wage. With your student loan repayment being less than your than your national insurance and state pension contributions I’m surprised if you would even pay enough back to cover the interest never mind the actual debt. My younger sister is starting a degree this year.
This obviously a deliberate measure started by new Labour and accelerated by the current coalition to price working class people out of higher education. Sure you are given a choice, either to not get a degree and earn an average of £100,000 less than someone who has, or go to university and end up paying for it the rest of your life.
Tuition fees were introduced in 1998; they need to be abolished immediately and money paid back to every current and former student who had to pay them, along with an apology from each and every person responsible for this national scandal. That would certainly help the millions of graduates struggling to find a job at the moment.