For how long can students expect to be in debt?

The Conservative/Liberal coalition of 2010-15 overhauled the old university tuition fees system, drastically increasing the cost to students of a university place in the process. The system is less than 4 years old but students are already feeling the pinch. We’ve looked at academic research to find out just how long students can expect to be in debt.

Before 1998 students in the United Kingdom did not have to pay tuition fees to attend university. The Dearing report of 1997 recommended that the government start charging tuition fees for higher education and the Labour government agreed and introduced tuition fees capped at £1,000. Tuition fees gradually increased under the labour government reaching £3,290 by 2010.

The Coalition Government further increased tuition fees for England in September 2012 meaning that students are now charged up to £9,000 a year. When you add maintenance loans in it means that the average student studying a three-year degree will leave university with roughly £43,000 of debt.

However the amount graduates pay back is now proportional to how much they earn, so graduates earning under £21,000 a year do not have to pay back any of their tuition fees. Furthermore 30 years after leaving university any debt is wiped out.

This means a typical teacher leaving university at 21 will pay over £40,000 in repayments over their career and will still be repaying university debt in their 50s, whereas a doctor can expect to pay an eye-watering £118,864 over 21 years. However if a graduate earns less than £21,000 a year they don’t repay a penny.

The average graduate will not repay their tuition fees before the 30 years are up so can expect to be in debt until they are at least 50. However, contrary to popular belief, student debt does follow you abroad so you cannot escape your debt by simply going on a long holiday to Spain, unfortunately.

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