Changes that would hold the student loan repayment threshold at £21,000 for five years will cost students on average £2,800. According to the Sutton Trust, women will be more affected more than men, and those from poorer backgrounds hit hardest.
If the £21,000 threshold was not frozen, the average male, who borrowed £36,000 over three years, would pay back £34,900 over thirty years, and the average female £26,000. However, this would increase; men would expect to pay back an extra £2,300, and women an extra £3,300.
Unfair Deal, a study by the Sutton Trust, has found that the average debt for students will increase to over £50,000 when means tested maintenance grants become loans in 2016, and the change in loan terms ensures this will turn into higher repayments – particularly for those borrowers who do not secure higher paid jobs.
This change is partly because the government says updated forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility show fewer students are likely to start paying than was expected when the policy was introduced, increasing the burden of higher education on the taxpayer.
The report says: “Changing existing loan terms is unfair on students, would undermine trust, and could prove unlawful and unenforceable if challenged.
“The uncertainty created by the proposed changes effectively forces students to write an ‘open cheque’. This may discourage participation or distort decisions as to where, what and how to study”.
It recommends no retrospective changes to loan terms should be made, but that even this might not be enough to restore trust. The trust wants new borrowing to be given definite terms, which should apply throughout the whole repayment period.
It says: “The longer term risks should be borne by government, not individual students who cannot be sure of being amongst those successful graduates in well paid jobs.”
Elea Street, a second-year English literature student, described the decision as “utterly unfair”, adding: “The government needs to do more to ensure that students get a good deal from spending £36,000, either by creating jobs or by making life easier for us once we graduate increasing the threshold for which have to being repaying our loan, otherwise people will be entire put off going to university”.