A single student has amassed a debt of £189,700 – the largest amount in England – as researchers warn of the severe “psychological toll” that student debt is having on graduates.
The Student Loan Company said that £189,700 was “an exceptional case”, and may have been accrued across loans for several courses, according to a Freedom of Information request published in Reddit.
But when details of the case were shared online, it sparked an outpouring of comments from graduates revealing they had debts around the £100,000 mark, The Guardian reported.
Students who graduated in 2020 took out an average of £45,060 in loans, according to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute – which warned that graduates feel their debt is “draining, weighing them down, on their shoulders” and causing them “anxiety, pressure, worry and dread”.
‘Listen to graduates’
Many graduates interviewed for the report, who started university between 2006 and 2013, felt that “tuition fees and interest rates are too high, the amount of debt owed is a burden and the loan repayment period never-ending”, the authors wrote.
Claire Callender, professor of higher education at UCL and one of the report’s authors, told The Guardian: “It is essential we listen to graduates to develop evidence-based, sustainable and fair higher education funding policies in the future.
“Why should the loans of even the poorest post-2012 students accrue such high interest rates while they are studying and before they reap any benefits from their higher education? Why burden students psychologically and materially with enormous debts when most will never fully repay them? And is the student loan system and the income it generates for the Treasury really worth the potential long-term consequences for graduates’ welfare, life choices and opportunities – affecting the lives of generations to come?”
While graduates did acknowledge some benefits of the system – such as the lack of uproot costs – many resented the “excessive” cost of their degree compared to what earlier students had paid. Most reported fearing that “there is no light at the end of the tunnel”.
The FOI to the Student Loan Company was sent by Craig Rossiter, who had been wondering whether – at £61,000 – his debt might be the largest in the UK.
Rossiter dropped out of five university degrees, initially due to struggles with depression and drug abuse, before having a baby, which meant he needed to secure a full-time job.
He explained that he sees his debt as “a graduate tax that will be with me for ever”, telling The Guardian of how changes to the repayment term could amount to a “huge extra cost” he will struggle to meet.
The high debt burden is especially punitive for those who struggle at university, he added. “There are things I did wrong but people from a working class background like myself and who go to the schools I went to aren’t as prepared.”