Graduates Suffer ‘Psychological Distress’ Due to Student Loan Debt – Report

Undergraduate tuition fees for students in England were introduced in 1998 (PA) (PA Wire)

Graduates are emotionally and psychologically disturbed by their high student debt, suggests a report.

University graduates think tuition fees and interest rates are too high and they see the amount of debt as a “burden,” according to an article by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) think tank.

One graduate said he felt “sick” because of the interest accrued on his student debt, while another said he probably wouldn’t have gone to college if he had to pay the fees. students are paying now.

The report, based on interviews with around 100 English graduates, suggests that those who have had to pay up to £ 9,000 a year in tuition fees are considerably “more negative” about their student loan debt.

Debt can have a psychological impact on graduates due to the size and longevity of the debt, as well as the interest charged

Co-author of the report Dr Ariane de Gayardon

Undergraduate tuition fees for students in England were introduced in 1998 and increased to £ 3,000 per year in 2006, further increasing to £ 9,000 in 2012.

The report says, “Graduates experience emotional and psychological turmoil – including anxiety and hopelessness – due to the size of their student loan debt.

“They think they will never pay back their loans because the amount owed is so high.”

He adds: “These emotions are especially experienced when they receive their annual statement from the Student loan company which can create an unpleasant cognitive shock and a feeling of unease, hopelessness and anxiety over the recall of amounts owed.

The article suggests that for some graduates, debt is experienced as “a lifelong burden” and a source of anxiety and stress that can negatively affect their mental health.

Of the interest on their debt, a 2012 Fundraising Cohort graduate said, “It makes you sick and horrible, you know: absolutely horrible feeling inside your chest, your stomach. “

Meanwhile, a 2006 Funding Cohort graduate said, “The amount students have to pay is just ridiculous and honestly if I had had to pay the amount students have to pay today, I wouldn’t. probably wouldn’t have gone to college at all. . “

The research is based on interviews with 48 graduates subject to the 2006 funding regime and 50 graduates subject to the 2012 funding regime.

It is a mess for which successive governments must take responsibility

Jo Grady, Union of Universities and Colleges

Report co-author Claire Callender, professor of higher education policy at UCL Institute of Education and Birkbeck, University of London, said: “Graduates offer a distinctive perspective on student loans.

“Their experiences are not always easy to listen to and may be contrary to the thinking, intentions and vision of decision makers. Nonetheless, there are important lessons for policy makers.

“While the 2012 funding reforms have benefits, the changes exacerbated the very features of the student loan system that graduates already found problematic and increased the burden of student debt. “

Report co-author Dr Ariane de Gayardon, researcher at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, said: “Debt can have a negative impact. psychological impact on graduates due to size and longevity of debt, in addition to interest charged.

“Anything can potentially harm the lives and aspirations of future generations.

“When reforming the loan system, one of the goals should be to reduce the student debt burden on graduates. To do this, we must listen to the voice of graduates.

After reviewing spending last month, the Government said he would give more details on the higher education regulation, alongside the response to the Augar report, “in the coming weeks”.

We know from students that their biggest concern is the cost of living while they study, and that’s why UUK has long campaigned for an increase in maintenance assistance, targeting students from more social backgrounds. disadvantaged.

spokesperson for UK universities

A series of recommendations were made in the Post-18 Education and Funding Review – an independent panel led by Philip Augar – which was published in May 2019, including the reduction in tuition fees to £ 7,500.

He also recommended that graduates should repay their student loans over 40 years rather than 30 years, and that the repayment threshold be lowered.

Currently, graduates start repaying their loans when they earn £ 27,295 or more per year, but ministers are believed to be considering slashing that figure.

Jo Grady, Secretary General of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “This report highlights the inherent toxicity of the student loan system that punishes students for entering higher education, overwhelming them with several. decades of debt and straining their sanity.

“It is a mess for which successive governments must take responsibility.”

A spokesperson for Universities UK (UUK) said: “It is essential that all prospective university students have access to clear information about the student funding system before starting their application.

“As this report points out, students only start repaying their loans after they graduate, and repayments are then based on their income.

“We know from students that their biggest concern is the cost of living while they study, and that is why the UK has long campaigned for an increase in maintenance assistance, targeting students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. “

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “The student funding system has been designed with the interests of students in mind, so that anyone with the talent and desire to pursue higher education can do so. , whatever their origin.

“Repayments depend on the borrower’s income, ensuring that loans remain affordable, while equitably sharing the cost of higher education between graduates and the taxpayer.

“We remain committed to improving the quality of standards and excellence in teaching while ensuring a sustainable and flexible student funding system. We will give more details on the higher education regulations and our response to Augar in due course. “

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