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‘Truly eye-watering’: UK’s highest amount of student debt revealed

A single graduate in the UK has £231,000 of student debt, new figures show.

Campaigners have described the figure as “jaw dropping” – and claim it is evidence tuition fees are in dire need of reform.

The Student Loans Company, which released the figures, say this balance belongs to a Plan 2 borrower, meaning it could only have been taken out after 2012.

In another case, a single loan has attracted interest of more than £54,000.

iStock file pic
Image: File pic: iStock

An SLC spokesperson said graduates leave university with an average debt of £44,940 in England – and higher balances are usually caused by students taking multiple courses or embarking on longer degrees.

Tom Allingham, a spokesman for Save The Student, described the data as “truly eye-watering” – with a recent poll by the finance site suggesting 67% of graduates worry about loan repayments, and 64% believe they will never clear their balance in full.

He told Sky News a balance of £231,000 is “something I’ve never come across before” – adding: “For so much debt to have accumulated in so little time is astounding, though it is worth noting that this example is very much an outlier.”

Mr Allingham said most Plan 2 borrowers have any remaining debt wiped 30 years after graduation.

“Regardless of the size of their loan, graduates will only ever repay 9% of their earnings over the repayment threshold. What’s more, student loans don’t operate like traditional debt – including, crucially, the fact it won’t impact your credit score,” he explained.

Chloe Field, vice president of higher education at the National Union of Students, told Sky News: “These figures are an indictment of our education system.

“The UK cannot pretend that university is accessible to everyone when there is the possibility of students incurring over £200,000 worth of debt.”

Ms Field warned student debt discourages people from working class backgrounds from getting a degree.

She added: “People are only eligible for student loans once. This means that if someone wanted to retrain later in life, they would have to pay their student debt in full.

“The only viable solution is to create a higher education system which is fully funded and free at the point of use.”

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US students find out tuition will be free

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It’s vital we have a sustainable student finance system that is fair to students and taxpayers. We’ve frozen tuition fees for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years to deliver better value for students.

“New borrowers will also not repay more than they originally borrowed when adjusted for inflation, and graduates who earn less than the repayment threshold will not have to make any repayments. Any outstanding debt will be written off at the end of the loan term.”

Sky News Source