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Articles > December, 01, 2009

The Reality of Student Debt

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Huge and burdensome. No, not my landlady, nor my final year workload: my student debt. Well, that’s one reality of it anyway.  Living in London with the maximum student loan over my three year course is going to leave me with over £24,000 to pay back after I graduate next June. Yes, huge and burdensome indeed!

But is the financial side of our debt the only reality we need to take into account? What have I really gained from university to justify such a massive receipt? What is in my shopping trolley  as I approach the prestigious checkout of university!?

More than a couple of tins of baked beans and myriad memories of hangovers I hope…

University is not just about the degree itself. Yes of course that’s where over £3,000 a year goes to fund our studies, but where does the rest of the money go and what do we get out of it? I think to only look at the financial debt we incur as a result of university completely overlooks the personal gains it offers us.

It is the nature of a debt that we owe something back. Of course we’ve got a debt in financial terms, but university also offers us incredible opportunities we might not have had otherwise. Personally, I’ve moved over 250 miles from a coastal town to the capital of the country, had the chance to live on my own earlier than I would have otherwise, discovered new music scenes, met incredible people and got to study a subject I love for three years.

The point is that I think we should all recognise the amazing opportunities university offers to us on a personal level. Like I said, to be in debt is to owe something back, but I’m not all too sure I am in debt when I consider everything I’ve come to gain from my experience.

Now, there’s no denying that £24,000 is a LOT of money and please don’t think I’m trying to tell you to ignore it. But even if we look purely at the financial side of things, I think there are a few key things all students should know about their debt before they start losing sleep over it:

1) Repayments on student loans are only made when you’re earning over £15,000. Earn any less and you don’t need to start paying back any of your pennies at all.

2) Even when you’re earning over £15,000, you pay back 9% of any income OVER the threshold. That means if you’re earning £16,000, your first fifteen grand is safe and you only repay your loan from the extra £1,000. That’s just £90 a month on a loan that can be tens of thousands of pounds in size.

3) Interest on the loan is tied to inflation. What this means is even though the size of your loan goes up in amount, is doesn’t go up in real terms. If a banker gave you this rate on any other loan his manager would shoot him.

There are a lot of other things everyone should know about their loan and I suggest that you look on to make you’re familiar with the facts. But even if you look at your debt in financial terms, it’s not something to get too worried about.

We should all take our student debt completely seriously. No, it’s not nice to have to pay back so much and yes, it is going to take a long time to give it all back. However, never forget all of the amazing experiences you’ve had or will have because of the opportunity to attend university. It’s in a place you may spend the rest of your life, it’s with friends you’ll always remain close to and you’ll gain invaluable life skills. Oh yeah and we get a degree too…

Just always try to remember everything you’ve gained from university whenever you’re lamenting over your loan or are daunted by your debts.

No, the reality of student debt might not be too bad after all.

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  1. Denise

    As a mature student I have a very different view of University. Frankly I am bitterly disappointed in the level of lectures that I receive. I expected University study to be much harder and more demanding. Perhaps one?s view of ?value for money? is wholly dependant on where and what you study. Compared to a full time job and running a house and family it is reasonably easy going. I have no need for life experiences and would be irked if I thought that this was a component of my debt. All that said because I qualify for the maximum loans and grants I am managing to live quite comfortably. If I had not chosen to go to University I would certainly still be unemployed and could possibly have lost my house by now. So I view the debt not as a real debt (knowing that it will only be paid back if I am earning) but look at it as a reprieve from working whilst trying to change careers. I was highly paid before University and expect to be highly paid after I graduate. Taking on a student debt is a personnel choice so I wouldn?t moan about the debt, only the quality of teaching that it buys me.

  2. orlin ball

    i think im the only one here (havent read all the comment for lack of time) that believes that universitary is rarther cheep, personally i would pay a lot for my corse if needed. in im my second year at the moment and by the time i have graduated my debt will be about £22,000, yes thats a lot of money but i say its worth it. 3 years of studdying and discussing with other people, who are also interested in a subject i love. i will also be getting 3 years of freedom to live where i want away from my family and do what i want in my spare time. i dont come from a rich family (6 kids and one income of 30,000 a year) but i woulds be happy to pay double what i am at the moment becaues i think the experence is just one of a kind. also im only living off £5,000 a year for food rent ect… i need to be makeing 3 times as much as im living off at the moment before i pay anything back… to me thats a lot more spending money. i dont see university as debt nor see its prices putting people off education. i love it, its the most freeing and best thing to ever happen to me.

  3. Katie Parkin

    The main reasons I am wanting to go to university would be to grow up a bit, get friends, confidence and get my degree. If I get all of that out of it then I believe the debt you come out with is definitely worth it. So yeah I agree! Iv heard they are the best years of your life and so paying the university back after your earning over £21,000 sounds reasonable enough even though they are constantly rising. After all, you don’t have to pay them back as long as you come out with a decent career and wage anyway so there’s nothing to complain about really. They provide you with basically everything and so you just have to see if its worth it!

    I haven’t started university but I am prepared for the costs, it will affect my future more than my pocket!

  4. Stephen Penning

    I think the increase of tuition fees was a bad decision by the government and the various education authorities. In reality when you hear Michael Gove saying to potential students, full and part time students that you do not have a debt when you leave university is completely rubbish, he throws into the debate that you do not repay your loan unless you earn over £15,000, so repaying and loan are terms that you would associate with debt so I do not understand where he is coming from.

    Also because fees are increasing depending on which university you are attending, this is very off putting to parents of perspective students and mature students because of the shear amount of money you will be repaying back at the end of your study. This is worrying because everyone should have a opportunity to enhance there academic skills either straight from school or later on in life but because of the sheer cost of doing this I feel these opportunities will not happen and the future generations will think twice about going to university,. I think everyone should be entitled to obtaining a university place and not having to pay any sort of tuition fees and this should be paid for by the government and this way we can be assured that future generations can achieve there dreams and aspirations which will create a more sustainable economy for the UK because we will have many more highly skilled professionals who can changes peoples lives by creating cures for life threatening illnesses, providing vital humanitarian support to countries plus we will impact greatly on new research developments, new technologies etc, so I believe tuition fees should be scrapped and the government should be encouraging people to undertake a undergraduate or post graduate qualification because this can only benefit the UK tremendously and also everyone should experience the “Student way of life”” as it is exciting, rewarding and you meet fantastic people. One other thing Michael Gove should be removed as education minister and they should appointment someone who believes in making sure the education of our younger and future generations will not be restricted due to cost cutting measures which will impact tremendously on how everyone in education is taught.

  5. Laura Mathews

    When you think about the costs of moving out but not being at university, The work potentially wouldnt pay aswell and your given less optionsin terms

  6. Ryan Fallis

    This has left me in a better mindset about everything as before I was worrying about the debt I would have if I went to university! Thanks!

  7. Shanice Dove

    When applying for university I think it’s important you don’t not apply due to worry of being in debt. This shouldn’t be a reason to not apply as the university won’t take money until your earning over a certain amount of money and even then only a certain percentage is taken, the percentage is dependant on how much you earn, but you are always left with more than enough money to live off each month.

  8. Paul Greensmith

    You have to bare in mind adwell the costs of living if you wernt at university and decided to move out. The work potentially wouldnt pay aswell and your given less optionsin terms of employment.

  9. Cassie Beadel

    I have just finished applying for university, I really want to go and have done since I can remember. However, the debt of going to university and taking out a loan is so dornting! you really do have to think about this step in life because it doesn’t come cheap!

  10. stephen bullen

    100% agree with you

  11. oksana smolnikova

    That why it is serios step in a life to take a loan from government. Young people have to be strongly motivated on education and styding at uni , so think twice before decide to start taken a degree

  12. Alec Christie

    Through the tuition fees change, although the media publicised it as a travesty and that students would never afford uni, students are now actually in a better position to pay off their loan than they were before even if they are paying so much more for their course – although this is still child’s play to American and international fees. The government will lose a lot of money through the effects of this reform so actually it is they who will lose out, not the student as the media loves to jump on the bandwagon about.

  13. Jasmine Rider

    I know paying the loan back when I earn more than the estimated amount may look hard but not problematic. However, this year I noticed I don’t have enough maintenance loan to pay off the annual rent of my accommodation and I don’t have a grant because of dad and stepmum earned too much, so they have to pay at least £1000 for this year.

    • Jasmine Rider

      But overall, yes I totally agree with you

  14. Farva Hussain

    totally agree

  15. Andy Rushton

    It’s been a while since I wrote this!

    Yup Larissa – the terms have changed a lot now. You start paying back when you’re earning over £21,000 now but of course fees are much higher than they were.

    It should have said been £90 a year not per month as Jennifer pointed out!

    I would still do it all over again, but then there’s a separate debate to be had about how fees continue to rise…

  16. Lukasz Malec

    Don’t want to pay – don’t study – simple as that.
    Nothing in life is for free. Deal with it,

  17. Larissa Nzikeu

    * Isn’t it when you start earning over £ 21,000 now, instead of £ 15,000?

  18. qq

    This is a beautiful picture with very good lighting 😀

  19. Kathryn Ward

    As a third year Archaeology student at the University of Winchester. I pay just over £3,000 a year for tutition fees. I commute via train a total for 1hr and 30 mins to save costs for my loans that I get. My parents cannot afford to help me with the costs of uni as I come from a less well off yet the jobs I want to go into (archaeology/museums) you need a relevent degree. As it is something I am passionate about amdoing the degree. If i was to start uni with £9,000 plus maintance loan I would not have gone. As it is I dont work during semesters, I get the full maintance grant and I get a bursery from my uni. All that I have to pay back is a tution loan and maintance loan (which is capped as I am living at home to just under 2 grand from a year) which I need to cover the cost of paying rent a home (£160 a month) as well as my train fare which is about £160 a month (would be more but i have a 16-25 railcard which reduces my train fair by a third. I dont go out at night socialising with friends, dont get drunk, I just travel to uni knowing that one day I will have to pay off the Student Loans that i have accumulated. I know that under the old regime once you have reached 25 years after you graduate your student debt is wiped off so you dont pay it back or so I have been told. I am worried about having to pay back my loans but I know that I can pay more money as and when I can to reduce my student debt.

  20. Laura Mcfadden

    The £9000 a year isn’t what I’m bothered about. But the fact that my maintenance loan barely covers my accomodation (I’ve looked at the cheapest at every uni I’ve applied to) means I’m already a couple hundred in the reads before I’ve even paid for accomodation.

    • Michael Hughes

      So many people are in this position, mine doesn’t even cover my accommodation and I am in one of the cheapest for my uni. If I didn’t have a part-time job and financial support from my parents, uni life would just consist of stress. At the end of the day, it is a loan, and I don’t believe it should be tied so much to your parents, but more to the cost of living in the area you go to uni.

  21. Alecsandra Plavan

    £24000 seemed like a huge ammount to pay, now it’s my turn and all of a suddent its increased to £80000+, it’s ridiculous, the same education for more money.

  22. Ammar Jamil

    I am going to Germany where Education is free. to h..l with student load

  23. Jennifer Hampson

    The threshold is £15,795. If you earn £1000 over the threshold you pay 9% of that over the year. So it would be £90 a year, not £90 a month.

  24. Fady

    Pay off your debt first and then put all the money that you would have been using to pay off your bills into your retirement auoncct debt will always cost more in the long run because the interest rates are always so high. Don’t take anything out of the retirement fund becuase they’ll penalize you, but perhaps cut back on how much you’re putting in there and get rid of your credit card bills. When you’re done with eliminating your credit card debt, keep a savings auoncct for emergencies so that you don’t go back into debt if something happens.References :

  25. Menahil Tariq

    I think the debt crises has gotten a little too out of hand. Yes fees have increased etc etc… but you don’t have to pay anything back immediately, it will go automatically from your pay and you’re likely to earn more money if you have a university degree. People from lower class background can still go to university, the government offers plenty of loans for food and accommodation and you could always get a part time job. The government will not take you house or any other possessions away from you if you earn less than £15 000 so I don’t see what the big problem is. There are countries in which, even if you have the grades you need to give a ‘bribe’ to even be considered and if you’re poor there’s no chance of going to university. Don’t get me wrong I would love it if I didn’t have to pay for university but I think the media is just creating a moral panic and most people from lower class backgrounds are being influenced by it. Our country is in a lot of debt, it’s going to cost someone. University is an amazing experience more than anything and it opens sooo many doors; although I would much rather prefer it if there was no debt and some extra grants but to completely dismiss the idea of going to university simply because one day you might have to pay it back is a pretty lousy reason to let soo many opportunities go by.

  26. Tahmina

    I agree with 😛 of the fact that the system is entirely unbalanced. It IS SUPPOSED to give a chance for those who come from a lower class background, to have an opportunity to make something of themselves and have a great career. But with the enormous amount of student debt that occurs along the process, it makes me wonder whether it is all worth it. I mean, I hope to do graduate and get a degree, then hopefully be able to do a masters, but the thought of a huge lump of debt hovering me for a majority of my life is very daunting.

  27. :P

    Personally I feel that the system is unbalanced. The fees have supposedly been put up to help those with low income backgrounds, and provide them with grants. If it actually balanced the system and helped most students to study without too much debt, it would have been a good idea… but it somehow hasn’t worked out that way. It just seems like more debt for everyone (especially those just above the income bracket) unless your wealthy enough to pay outright for university. However there are loopholes which I personally do NOT wish to implement… 1) One or both of my parents loose a job or their life, 2) I pretend to be Scottish and go to a Scottish university, 3) I get married or enter into a civil partnership for the duration of my degree, 4) get pregnant 5) go to the house of Parliament, or bank of Scotland myself and use some… persuasion, to attain a personal scholarship from the “Expenses” and “Bonus” fund… (as you can see all these ideas are counter productive and would not really help me to attain a degree, unless I was prosecuted for fraud and got a free degree whilst in prison!!) Even then I would not be able to be free of debt.

  28. edynart

    Sorry my comment was a bit late and early in the new year. i agree with with everything she said. considering the nitty gritty and the amount involved to be paid, but you gain a lot more than what you pay.

  29. Miriam

    You are pointing out that international students pay a lot more than UK students for their education. It depends what course you are doing but mine includes loads of materials and practical sessions using expensive equipment. And remember your tution fees cover other costs at uni such as the library and computer suites student advise etc.. And depending on your course you may be able to get funding for your tutuion fees. I just feel that it is unfair that if you get a bursary for your tution fees you are only able to get non- means tested student loans which are about £2200 per year

  30. LB

    To Alisha R, First of all, choices are limited. You go or you don’t, you go you increase the chance of a better career and salary, you don’t go, you increase the chance of not. Secondly, your choice and argument is biased as, you said yourself, that you are entitled to full grants and bursaries. The scales tip a little to share the same opinion when you get that for doing (what you have basically said) a pointless degree. No one have I read so far is slating the teaching from the lecturers and, of course, university is about learning for yourself and independant study. I feel you (Alisha) have been swept up in the university experience which is why you defend it so, which is fine of course as I agree with personal opinion. But don’t sit there and tell the people that are switched on about the terrible system and naffed off, when your argument is wholly biased, one sided and insensitive to the feelings, situations and ambitions of everyone else.

  31. LB

    I don’t seem to have made myself clear, when I say system I mean in relation to paying for the university (so Student Finance England etc). University should still be a choice but should be free as it is in Scotland and used to be not so long ago. My main issue with your article is that, to me, University should be about a higher learning. Instead, which you brush over, it has become about going to gain experience, independance and freedom. You don’t. You’re still wrapped in bubble by getting specialised student accomodation (even when you find a house for yourself, it’s specific to students), you get money for nothing (grants as well as loans) and you have all the societies, help desks and help lines to help you through your “own early life”. Music scenes and meeting friends is fantastic, but thats what the adverts and colleges promote to potential students. Why? I don’t know, I wish I did. Now i’m sure you’re a nice guy, and you seem pretty jolly and optimistic, so it isn’t really a personal attack against you, but my view of philosophy is to gain a bigger picture, love of knowledge, constantly seeking the truth. You’re reality of student debt and, by extension, this “system” is just accommodating the reason why we are being pressured (even though we have “choice”) to go to University. I’d love actually to have a chat with you further about the whole thing to see if i’m just being pessimistic or immature. As i’m 200 miles from London it would be difficult to meet, but are you on some sort of chat room?

  32. Andrew Rushton

    ‘LB’. What do you think the system should be? Share some wisdom…

  33. LB

    I don’t seem to have made myself clear, when I say system I mean in relation to paying for the university (so Student Finance England etc). University should still be a choice but should be free as it is in Scotland and used to be not so long ago. My main issue with your article is that, to me, University should be about a higher learning. Instead, which you brush over, it has become about going to gain experience, independance and freedom. You don’t. You’re still wrapped in bubble by getting specialised student accomodation (even when you find a house for yourself, it’s specific to students), you get money for nothing (grants as well as loans) and you have all the societies, help desks and help lines to help you through your “own early life”. Music scenes and meeting friends is fantastic, but thats what the adverts and colleges promote to potential students. Why? I don’t know, I wish I did. Now i’m sure you’re a nice guy, and you seem pretty jolly and optimistic, so it isn’t really a personal attack against you, but my view of philosophy is to gain a bigger picture, love of knowledge, constantly seeking the truth. You’re reality of student debt and, by extension, this “system” is just accommodating the reason why we are being pressured (even though we have “choice”) to go to University. I’d love actually to have a chat with you further about the whole thing to see if i’m just being pessimistic or immature. As i’m 200 miles from London it would be difficult to meet, but are you on some sort of chat room?

  34. Rachel Green

    I agree with most people here. Really though I’m gonna worry about my debts after uni is finished.

  35. Sarah Thompson

    I agree totally with the point that you gain amazing experiences at uni that cant be quanitfied. I live in Scotland, and if I was going to go to an English uni I would have been paying at least £3200 a year for tuition fees alone – in Scotland it is only £1800, which the government pays for you! What I dont understand is if Scotland can do it, why are the English unis so greedy, and why is the government not doing more to make going to uni less of a financial burden. Regardless of where you go to uni you have an amazing time and gain new experiences, so why is the cost such a major factor?

  36. Rowan Springfield

    I receive around 12 hours per week of lectures in the first two semesters of ten weeks. I receive less in the third semester, but I guess you could say the time was made up in marking tests etc. Even so, this totals 360 hours of tuition for my £3220 and the governments approximately £6000. Thats over £9000 for 360 of teaching, approximately £25 per hour of lecture. I used to have a personal tutor that charged £15 per hour for one on one tuition. Paying £25 an hour to sit in a lecture with 200 other students, listening to lecturers who are essentially presenting an overview od the textbook we have all been told to buy is obscene. I could read the textbooks by myself and not go to any lectures and have learnt the same or more, but I wouldn’t have a degree that way. As it is I have to pay almost £10,000 for the privelige. Half of the lecturers just read off the slides in the lecture as if they don’t even know what they are talking about. And this is in a Russel group university…

  37. Heather

    While I think that the author makes an interesting point I don’t agree. I take out theminimum loans for tution and accomodation and I work on average about 20-25 hours per week for food and living expenses. Even with this I have 7k worth of debt and I am only in first year! I don’t go drinking so I do not waste my money or my time I am usually working when my other friends are out partying. I do not think that asking to remove the cap on student loans or asking english students to pay more because they are not welsh or scottish is wrong. This year I pay taxes and these are used to subsidise other students education whilst I have to pay more- is this fair? As for international students- you choose to come here if I were to go to a foreign university I would have to pay more as well as prove I could support myself. The fact is British immagration [policies are very lenient, much more so than say america or australia

  38. Adam

    Uni might be an amazing experience because you meet new people, get new interests etc but those aren’t things you pay for in life. What do we actually get for the £3k tuition fees? Listening to a lecturer rant on about something which you then have to print off using your money, buy the books yourself, pay for trips yourself etc. I can see that if you come from private school £3k is probably quite cheap but otherwise no.

  39. Alisha R

    I fully agree with this article – I think Andrew’s arguments are justified and well thought-out and, for anyone making personal remarks about his degree course and him needing to ‘open [his] eyes’, perhaps they should consider that this is an opinion piece and it is the author who has won a prize from this article; not those of you who slate him simply because you have different views. The main point within this article that I relate to is the fact that attending university is a choice – I hae many friends who have chosen to go straight into employment, whilst I have others who have decided that a degree course is the route for them. Ultimately, it is down to personal choice no matter your background, creed or family pressures. Whether or not to embark upon a university course is a decision and, if we choose to do so, we should not be blaming anyone else for our ‘vast amounts of’ debt, ‘lack of’ contact hours or ‘useless’ qualifications. For those of you who compare your programmes to that of the ‘9-5’ medics, your resasoning is severely flawed – you too could have chosen such a course if you had so wished and so complaining about their increased amount of lectures, their higher chances of employability and their eventual inceased salaries is unjustified imply because you too could have those things. Before anyone assumes that I am a medic, hence the defence of them, I am not. My degree entitles me to 10 hours of contact time per week, and it’s directly related to a vocation or high salary. In fact, my programme is offered by few universities and so my chances of being employed due to my degree programme are probably much more diminished than that of other readers, predominantly because it is rarely recognised and mostly misunderstood. Still, perhaps I feel more of a connection to this article because I am in a similar situation to the author – I too live in London; I too qualify for full grants and bursaries and, although I only discovered this by chance, I too go to UCL. Perhaps it is the outstanding quality of our lecturers and their research which makes Andrew and I feel that our ultimate debt is worthwhile. Overall, university is a choice,in so much as the one which you attend is – if you don’t want to be in debt when you’re 22, don’t go down the degree route. And if you don’t want to feel as if you’re being scammed dout of your money, attend a uni where you are so thankful for the world-leading standard of your tutors, that you never even think of the discrepancy between how much you’re paying or how relatively little your lecturers are earning.

  40. LB

    To Ellie, no it’s not fair at all, but as Richard rightly said, we make our own choices and should live by them… It’s not fair that prisoners get an education towards a degree for free, it’s not fair that some people are in 2 hours and others are in 20 hours but pay the same fees, it’s not fair that we have to pay for education at all… Particularly when the government havn’t told us what they are using the money that they are saving on, so we can’t see if it is a good thing or not.

  41. LB

    Anu 46. Thats rubbish, americas massive and economies of scale have always helped it buy everything. They have better facilities in compulsory education than we do as well, so that does not justify your point. Also, you obviously havn’t been to my university in Preston.

  42. Anu Aggarwal

    I think, 3000 pounds is too less for the University fees. The difference can be seen when we compare the US and the UK Universities, the US universities have a lot of facilities because they charge the students heavily but UK universities do not have as many facilities for the students. Moreover, it inculcates a greater sense of responsibility among the students if they are paying more rather than now when the education is almost free of cost for the students.


    I totally agree with the message and point that you are conveying. However it was only a few years back when students didn’t have to pay for university and they still got to enjoy the same lifestyle we are all enjoying now. I think it is crucial we think about what else we are gaining from university other than a large debt and a degree but I also find that £3000+ a year is a lot of money and even though we dont have to pay it back in large sums we still have to pay it back. University is an amazing experience and one I want to live to the full but do you not think that paying more than £3000 a year is a lot to pay for that pleasure?


    Doesn’t anyone else think it ironic that the polititions who have made theses decisions regarding student finance probably had their education at a time when there were grants and actually NEVER had to pay for their education?!!! Why is it that this Government insists on making it almost impossible for mature students trying to improve themselves and only concentrates on young people most of whom have no idea of values and what education is worth let alone know what they actually want to do in life?

  45. Philippa Watts

    International students have to pay the fees that are paid by our government on our behalf, which they get from taxes. In that respect, it is not an extortionate amount of money for an overseas student, you just don’t get the financial backing from our government. On the other hand, I’m rather divided over student fees. Say I were a medic and were getting 9 – 5 days of lecture all week then it’s a real bargain. However, as a French/History student I have a grand total of 10 hours of contact time per week, which doesn’t seem worth £3000+. On the other hand, a lot of what we pay goes to fund the research carried out by lecturers, ensuring the education you get is always top of the range.

  46. Paul Goodrich

    Very few graduates would disagree with the argument that a University education is valuable. So I wonder why it is presented as grounds for the acceptance – or resignation, depending on ones point of view, that British society should adopt the commercial position where education is a commodity with a price, payable by a consumer. Disregarding for a moment that of course, buildings require repair, tutors require salaries and as any institute – money keeps the show on the road. We know all this. Moreover, I am well aware that I am privileged in that my tutors are regarded as among the best in the world, both as acknowledged experts in their field, and as educators. Again, an argument that one would be churlish to disagree with, and one as consequence therefore, is over before it has begun. The author is a philosophy student yet he chooses a specious premise as a case. His argument is presented in such a way as to automatically diminish any detractors as unreasonable. I’m sorry, but even as a mere geology student, I can see through that ploy. I am a mature student and have seen perhaps a little more than the articles author. This does not mean that I am better equipped to present a case either way, simply that I have witnessed more and have friends who graduated decades ago and thank God they did so. I have been self employed for twenty five years and divide my time between lectures and work. I am occupied in both capacities over seven days of the week during term time. So I know what it means to earn, to incur debt and to repay debt. Nobody contests that we live in a world where everything has its price, and that there are no free rides. Only a fool would suggest otherwise and the implication within the article that only the foolish could disagree with a philosophers pragmatic position might pass muster among those in the 3rd year common room, not so much elsewhere. We are not all as malleable by a well turned essay as might be supposed. One fundamental concept of British society is an education, to the limits of the students ability should he or she feel capable. A National health service, a competent judicial system are others. All may have been denuded somewhat, with patients paying for parking and wealthy footballers evading driving bans. But whether or not these institutions are losing their way a little and confusing their priorities, their principles remain a worthy ambition. So it is with education. It should be the best possible, it should be entirely democratic and it should be founded wholly upon the creation of well rounded graduates capable of prospering both materially and spiritually. The product of such an education system would benefit society, materially and spiritually. Society would prosper. However, until we truly think of education as a priority, this ideal struggles for its proper place. That place is ahead of the desire to bail out bankers to the tune of countless billions and ensure they are adequately ‘bonused up’ in time for Christmas. It should be ahead of the desire to ensure that dishonest politicians can step down only at the next election, because being given the heave-ho sooner means they lose out on a nice pay off. It should be ahead of every working, middle class, upper class (oh yes – the divisions exist) misanthropes desire to avoid paying tax and vote only for those politicians who use a pen’orth tax reduction to gain plush office, only to raise it anyway. Its very simple, no one – and I mean absolutely no one can convince us now that there isn’t enough money to fund a real education system. Not anymore. Civil servants have disproportionate pension entitlements, solicitors are enriched by spurious personal injury claims and the Royal Bank of Scotland believe they should be rewarded handsomely for not providing a sound credit basis to small and intermediate business’s. Priorities. Should it be education? or ensuring the haves increase thier distance on the have nots? I have heard the mantra – ‘but this is the real world’… hows that ‘real world’ working out for you? Until you persuade honest politicians and a gullible public to change it you’re stuck with it. Some brave parliamentarian might show up one day and increase our taxes by that one penny. He will ring fence it and see it goes to education. Until then, those in favour of the US University system will smile as we argue amongst ourselves about the acceptance of a £15,000 personal bill for University education while every family in this country must secure funding of £40,000 to see that banks can continue to charge us £39.50 for going 17p overdrawn. Just pay your worthwhile taxes and be proud to be egalitarian, democratic, liberal and educated British.

  47. Alexander Spencer

    I look at it in the way that you get what you pay for. The degree itself does cost you £9, 675 this is true but that means the £14,325 is spent on living, and for three years i’d say thats pretty good going. Especially seeing as a lot of that went on pleasurably items more than necessaries. £15k for a three year holiday? Money well spent in my eyes.

  48. Kay

    While I take the point about students needing to put something towards their education, and a low interest loan being one way to fund it, not everybody is at university to have fun and experience life. Not everyone has 40 years to pay back the loan and not everybody can fall back on parents to take the slack. I am a mature student, who has gone to university in order to become a teacher. I am required by law to have a degree in order to do this. I am living on savings and working part time to try and fund it, currently accepting a tuition fee loan only. If I accept the full loan I will owe over £24,000 when I leave, with an awful lot less time to pay it back before retirement. If the fees go up to the proposed £7000 a year and and I take the full loan, I will owe over £35,000 plus interest. I can’t see many mature students taking that option. If the government wants more people to go to university it needs to find a better way to fund it. By all means raise the amount of money going to the university, but re-create grants to pay half of it and give students automatically free health care, or university will become unreachable to any other than the well off. Incidently, have you lived on £16,000 a year? I ask, because taking £90 a month out of it is rather a lot of money if you also have to pay full rent, buy own food, pay taxes, bills, live in London etc, and that’s if you DON’T have kids.

  49. Georgi Georgiev

    I do not think the university fees are to high too.

  50. Liviu

    I do not think than the university fees are too high

  51. sd

    Andrew is completely right, going to university is a choice. How many people are actually passionate about the course they are doing at uni? If your dream is to be a doctor, the only institution you can go to, in order to fulfil your dream is uni! when it comes to making your dreams come true, money does not matter.what can I say about the people that just want to be more employable? these people can just go to a cheap course, get the qualification they want and try to find a job they want to do! A lot of people argue that the money they pay for a couple of lectures a week is a lot. Yes, it is and that is the way it should be. Our lecturers are people with so much knowledge and skills; do you really think that they will be teaching in the best university in the world for like 10k a year?

  52. Ellie

    Well, what about those international students who has to pay £9,800 in tuition fees, because we´re not a member of the EU? Is that fair? Since we´re not a member of the EU, we have to pay three times more for the same course, the same lectures and the same teachers? It´s a lot of debt to pay back in the end. Is that worth it..?

  53. Dave O'Neill

    I agree 100% with this article. It may be a stupendous ammount of money for 3 or 4 years. But then I’m slowly beggining to realise that these could, and possibly will be, the best 4 years of my life. Aside from studying a subject that I really enjoy, and hope to get an amazing career from, I’m also experiencing things I would never had the chance to do otherwise. I have had the chance to meet some incredible people already, try out new ideas & things I would never have thought about and probably made some friends for life. Before I started uni, I was quite shy, but my confidence has increased drastically now, & I don’t think a price can be put on that, as it is a skill that can’t be bought. So sure, it may be an unjustified amount of money, but how many people have graduated in the last few years & said ‘That really wasn’t worth it’?

  54. Matthew

    Taking your numbered points: 1) If you’re doing a decent degree I would have thought you’d expect to be getting a good bit over that. my cousin graduated last year and he’s on over 35k a year… 2) Half of that £16,000 will go to tax anyway, leaving you with about the same amount you were living off when you were a student. 3) Since money is lent to you at interest you have to give back more money than you took from them. I’m speaking from the point of view of somebody who is not eligible to recieve and grants due to the means testing system, and i think it is injust that someone can say that somebody who earns as little as one penny more than somebody else should not be able to get a grant when someone else can. When my parents went to university they got a grant which they didn’t pay back; at soem stage some genius went through university and said “Hey, I can make money off giving loans to students instead of just giving them grants”, in effect taking up the ladder behind him/her.

  55. EmmaD

    I think that although the prices seem really steep, we are getting a great deal. It’s all part of the package, you cannot expect to get an eductaion for free, plus we pay less than some places and some of the universities are top notch. If you need to take out a student loan to cover it then the rate at which it has to be paid back, although over a rather long period of time, is peanuts compared to what you are earning because it is structured so that you are only paying it back when you can afford to. If you have to move somewhere else of course it is going to cost more, of course the need for a loan will be greater but you are investing in your future and you wouldn’t be paying it orr going there if it was not what you wanted.

  56. Richard

    The £10,000 paid in uni fees has to be an investment in one’s own future.On a salary of £25/30,000 it could easily be paid off within 5 years.The other £14/15,000 Andrew talks about are his decisions,he decided to move to London he decided to to take out a student loan.Maybe people should live by THEIR decisions.Richard

  57. Jessica S

    Studying overseas and paying a ridiculous sum of money for education has a plus–there is going to be at least one university on your application list that will accept you. I’m an international student, and I know this because back in my country, I’ll never get into a course like the one I am in now, with the diploma that I have. I quote from a lecturer, “Why enroll a local student when the university receive 3 times the amount for one international student?” Yes, university is a choice and while educational experiences can be gained through employment (e.g. going into Tourism industry by starting out with working in a restaurant, or a receptionist/bell boy at a hotel), it’s a very long shot. Paying a ridiculous sum of money for less than 20 hours a week (when on the visa letter it says a full time degree offers 40 hours a week of lessons) provides us with the qualification and the theoretical knowledge of the field that we are interested in and evidently, aid in future employments. In a way, a relevant qualification to the desired career gives us the “jump start” to the position we are to fill instead of having to start from being someone’s assistant, coffee boy or the likes. Then again, during recession, employers will be more likely to look for cheaper labors so holding a higher qualification doesn’t seem to matter anymore, does it? But when recession doesn’t exist, employers seek for qualifications. Sure if one enjoys a job such as being a waitress and don’t mind being one for the rest of her life, education is not that important. But there are careers that are simply impossible to obtain without relevant qualifications even when it is possible to achieve “on the job knowledge”. Yes, I chose to get out of my country, to study a course I love that is also not available there. But with the debt it comes with, is it really worth it in the end? While it may seem like a “one in a lifetime” experience right now, no one can predict how the future is like and when looking back into the university days while keeping the huge debt in mind, will most people still think it’s worth it? I have a friend who works part time in a pub while holding a Masters in Psychology, and being a waitress with no Higher Education qualifications (some don’t even have O Levels) in some restaurants earns more than being a preschool teacher at most Kindergartens with a relevant diploma. A generation ago (in my home country at least), obtaining an O Levels is average, heading up to obtain a diploma or an A Level qualification is like getting a Masters, and entering University is like obtaining a PhD. Now, an O Level certificate might not be enough but yet some but few jobs that do not require much qualifications pay higher than those that demand for one. The minimum qualification required for employment, as I know it, is an O Level certificate (some but few jobs accept N Level certificates) How long before the minimum of a Bachelors is needed to obtain employment? Should we all then obtain the minimum qualification needed for employment, then when we’re in our 30s or 40s, go back to school to get another qualification when the minimum increases? When that day comes, University is no longer a choice but a requirement, and the only the direction the fees are seen to be going is upwards. Is it fair that only those who can afford gets the education? Sure there are scholarships for those who are exceptionally outstanding, but what about those who are excellent or just great in their studies but cannot afford to go on in education? Sure there’s the bit about sponsorships, which binds the student to the company for ‘x’ number of years upon graduation-there goes the freedom, and then there’s loans, and we go back to “Is it worth it to be in such a huge debt?” What Universities teach, one can obtain those knowledge on his/her own through libraries, internet etc. The lecturers basically just summarized things, narrow the search down to the particular bits that one needs to know. But hey, employers are not going to buy the “I got my knowledge all from reading books” because honestly, if you are an employer, will you? And if they have 50 candidates waiting outside for the interview, they’re not going to take the time to play 20-questions with you to make sure you’re telling the truth. The certificate is the proof. University may be a choice now, but sooner or later, it is going to be a requirement. It’s not the education received that is the problem, is the amount that students have to pay to get a piece of paper that says he/she has achieved a certain qualification for a certain subject area that is the problem.

  58. LB

    First of all, Can not believe this has won £50 in vouchers. Secondly, your meant to be a philosophy student and this is the best you can come up with? Most people will live their own life early (which isn’t their own life as most don’t pay for themselves in the moment, so still being mothered by the state and/or parents) but then end up back living with their parents and the fact you put not paying it back if you don’t earn £15,000 is pathetic. People go to university to prosper and better their futures, not live just under a threshold. The argument that you have gained something from university that is not debt could be accepted if you actually mentioned what you gained, other than a degree that, judging by this article, has not given you the ability to think. Your feeding an idea about university to people that leaves the country thinking university to be an experience rather than an institution to learn and produce graduates that could brighten up our society. These people will, instead, get pissed, come out with a degree and then complain about how shit the country is. Finally, your article is a far cry from the title you gave it. The truth about student debt is that tax payers pay for it and the graduates (that are eligable for student loans) are paying money to the government monthly so the government didn’t have to raise tax or fund it in some other vein. Why do you think England went from free university tuition to where we are now? Open your eyes, smell the shit and stop posting useless information that won’t do any good to anyone. AM on 4th december is spot on. And to you foreign students that have commented, particularly the one who said about wishing he could get a loan and it has to come out of his pocket, study in your own country and do a semester here if you can’t afford it or that bothered. The sysetm in this country is f*cked and if our philosophy graduates can’t see that and say something useful, what hope have we got?

  59. Ellie

    Well, what about those international students who has to pay £9,800 in tuition fees, because we´re not a member of the EU? Is that fair? Since we´re not a member of the EU, we have to pay three times more for the same course, the same lectures and the same teachers? It´s a lot of debt to pay back in the end. Is that worth it..?

  60. Chelsey Emerald

    I think university is worth the money, providing you go to the right university and work hard. Also the 24,000 debt can be lowered by part time work. Part time work will give students the option of not taking out that extra bit of loan and save themselves in the long run. Also makes you more employable at the end, whats to loose apart fromt he fact that gettin off your head isnt advisable with work the next day. Great student debt is a choice.

  61. Chloe Nixon

    I agree that a university education is a great help to any career, but the fact that we are paying to get an education to enable us to do well and pay taxes is absolutely laughable. We are paying to be educated enough to pay the Government. The dole is looking attractive.

  62. Carlo V

    How do you justify paying all that money while in Switzerland anyone* can get a BA at one of the worlds finest design schools for £360 per year? The system in UK does not add up. *And I mean _anyone_, US, Asia, from any part of the world.

  63. Ryan Muir

    i agree that uni is a chance to gain experience and a new adventure in the next stage of our life. but i fink that £25K of debt is a big burden to carry, everyone should have the opportunity to study but i almost didn’t come to uni cos of this burden and reckon it puts people of.i feel uni should lower the cost to be paid back. what happened to investing in the future, not charging the future to try and make a better future.

  64. Stephanie F

    I totally agree with Andrew on this subject matter. Although it has to be said that being a scottish student studying in a scottish university I dont nearly have as much student debt as has been already said. I think by the end of my uni experience i will be about £8000 in debt. but at the same time thats a lot of money and the thing is that if i was not studying at uni and had that amount of debt from taking out a normal loan i think the problem would be far worse. I think that students dont get a bad deal in the way of paying it back and at the same time i completely agree that we made this choice and you have to take into some account that we do have to pay for it in some way. Although, i think that its completely unfair at how scottish students get their tuition fees paid for by SAAS and we dont have to pay that back, we can also apply for a bursary which we dont have to pay back, this doesnt cover all the needs but helps to decrease the amount of student loan that we take out and then the rest is taken out as a student loan. Although it does have to be said that this bursary that im talking about is based on your parents income so if your not from a well off family like me then your alright and the student loan stays down whereas if your on the other end of this your in a worse off position, which again i think is unfair. The main point im trying to make is that i think we should have to pay for this choice that we have made because its got to come from somewhere but i dont think that it should be as much as it is. And i think we should all lighten up about our student debt cause at the end of the day i think we get a much better deal with our loans than with people who have taken out a normal loan and owe that substantial amount of money, and in my opinion its well worth it! mind you this could possibly be cause im only in my first year, although my exams are in a week and i am just in first year but i honestly do think that we get a better deal than other people. And we really should take a positive view on our student debt cause lets face it it aint gonna go away and just think of the positives rather than the negatives i say! 😀

  65. AM

    I do not value my education above the current limit nevermind the proposed higher limits! I spend 3 or four hours a week contact time and find the university gladly relieves us of money for even the simple things. So you have paid £3225? Well pay more, Bus user? pay £315! Plan to print thigs off? 10p a sheet! want to eat anything while your here? £7 a day min! there out for money simple as. considering even on a biology related course out chances of earning very much are fairly reduced. what if you want a masters etc? pile on the student debt! looking at the big picture, Undergrad, Free or atleast lower. masters onwards, then you should pay! students will pay for the governments financial mismanagement they always do.

  66. Dimitar Grozdanov

    Hello to all colleagues!I am from Bulgaria a small and relatively poor country(the poorest in Eu union) and i would like to say that the standarts compared (UK-BG) are distinguished in like milleniums.Even the food here i say it is expensive but for the average english person it is not.My point is that if you are from another country you find it difficult to pay all these taxes and loans because it is different and it is expensive.I really know this word expensive.3,225 £ just for education,not concerning 4,5k for accomodation and other for food,clothes,daily needs are quite a lot of money.And consider international students outside Eu-they pay huge amounts of money.But if you want qualificated,top education you should be aware that it is worth it.Lets take Harvord for e.g.Do you think one year studying there is less than 25k $?I say this cost relatively proportional.(it could be the min.).IF you want top education you need to sacrifice the money,you need to charge yourself for the goals,study harder,not lead “everynight life” getting drunk without knowing who you are or where you are on the other day,meeting men or women for 1 night,this is not the charm of the university.Definitely it is sociability,events,things together but do not forget what you are here for.Trivially, you are here to study,to increase your intelligence capacity,to improve your language,to meet other cultures,to enrich your mind,to enjoy and mb cope with the life and the fact that you are a solo person.There is no mom,no dad near you so get you in hands.That is what i do and i am proud of myself.I am a first year student and i think the interesting is soon to come.Soon i will have my first exam and i am intending to study hard for it.Good luck to all,thanks for the attention and seriousness which helped you reading my post and understand my point of view.

  67. Katherine Lynn

    I agree to a certain extent, however, when student finance promise you all summer that you will recieve 85% towards childcare assistance and then when the final letter arrives you are told you are just over the threshold and will not have ANY childcare assistance, it makes me fell sick to say the least. We are not rich by any means, great helps for mature students with kids (NOT)

  68. Seyi

    I always find it surprising when students complain about how much they will be in debt when they leave university considering that most international students like me wish we could have access to a student loan because we have to pay at least £9000 for students on non clinical programs and considerably higher for science oriented students and according to the UK Border Agency we have to show we can support ourselves before we are granted visas meaning the money has to come from our personal pockets.

  69. Elizabeth Terry

    Although I agree with this article, the thought of the amount alone puts a lot of pressure on students to perform well after their course, and to carry on even if it is not what they wanted to do. Also, my course is only 6 hours of lectures a week (with no other classes or meetings) and 3 and a half grand is a heck of a lot to pay for just 24 hours of education a month! Plus a lot of our education these days is own research based, not based off information given by lecturers or teachers, so really, they aren’t giving us that much! However, despite all this, I’m having the time of my life at university, and would recommend anyone else to go!

  70. Nick Blurton

    you’ll be fine, sure you’ll make megabucks in the philosophy industry. Oh wait there isn’t one. Is that loan every getting paid off?

  71. F M

    A misguided joke perhaps.

  72. LN

    Hi, I just want to say that university tuition for some courses is value for money. For example, I am studying a degree in Medicine and paying about three grand a year for 4 years (the NHS covers fifth year fees). To train a doctor it costs roughly £250,000 per person for the duration of the course. We have to remember that we are attending the best universities in the world, if you look at the ivy league their fees are far more extortionate than ours, Americans leave uni with huge amounts of debt. lets face it, the debt is not exactly crippling, its affordable, and many people won’t even pay it back due to never earning above the threshold or by choosing to work abroad. A degree alone wont get you your dream job, but moving to a city you could never afford to have lived in otherwise with access to recruiters and advisers either visitng or part of the university helps you get valuable internships/experience/voluntary work you could never have found if you hadn’t gone to uni.

  73. Andres Chavez

    You know something, Uni is amazing and you learn so much, the knowledge you obtain is just amazing, but the thing is that whilst at UNI you must obtain some experience of some sort, any, so once you leave you are secure and go to a job interview with the knowledge aswell as the experience. I have talked to a lot of freinds who have left UNI with no experience and have founded really hard to get in their area. So even though UNI is great and gives us the knowledge we need, if you dont have any experience then its money spent on education thrown down the drain.

  74. Andrew Rushton

    My landlady is neither huge or burdensome, Morgan. I said, ‘no, not my landlady…’. It’s a joke, although a cheesy one at that I admit!

  75. sigmundjester

    Say you paid £4000 a year for your course, and there were 50 students in your year – £200,000 in total for the university. If your course consisted of 500 hours a year lecture time, and lets say 2 hours preparation time needed for each lecture – so 1500 hours spent by the lecturer(s) per year. That’s 200,000/1500 = £133 per hour! Even when you take into account the running costs of equipment etc. that seems a lot of money to shell out, especially when we have to spend most of the year tutor ourselves on the Internet. I think students have a right to see exactly how and where their money is being spent.

  76. Zetoon Zafar

    I agree with the fact that only 9% is taken from your account and the degree at the end is worth it, I do believe that

  77. F Morgan

    There’s something disconcerting about the fact that most people at uni will be in over 20 grand of debt by the age of 21.In some cases it will be for a few hours of lectures per week. Seems extortionate to me. And the landlady jibe, a personal remark on someone’s appearance, is hardly going to endear us all to your argument is it? In total agreement with Alice GB and C Holloway on this one.

  78. Alaba Thomas Oladunjoye

    The debt is a value for money. The Certificate issue to you from the University hold nearly everything about your future.

  79. Andrew Rushton

    Hey, JD 🙂 Only read your reply after posting, sorry. Obviously everybody wants a free lunch, but the problem is we’re asking for our pudding free too! Haha! what I mean is that we DO get this education free until 18, but to ask for free education until 21 is just cheeky. Why not free education until 23, 24, 25 etc, etc? The issue of education for very young people is a different issue. Some basic skills are needed for giving basic equality of opportunity for example. (Although this whole issue of free education is way more complex than this). What we should remember is that our universities are amongst the best in the WORLD. How can you justifiably believe that we should offer the best education in the world free to English citizens yet ignore far poorer countries when children cannot even read or write? Take your funds out of the collective pot if you will, but do NOT give them to us. There are far more needy people in the world and to ask for this free service is just asking for the free pudding! (Sorry about the food metaphors, haha!)

  80. Andrew Rushton

    Hey all, thanks for the comments 🙂 I think one fundamental idea that is working throughout my article that is being missed is this: going to university is a choice. Education of the standard we receive at university is a service that institutions are offering us and a service we must pay for. Obviously i’d love it if I didn’t have this debt to pay, but all I wanted to do through the article is to take a positive view of the whole issue. Because of going to university in London and taking the maximum loans available, i’ve got a much higher debt that average, but still, I don’t regret the decision at all. Are these experiences worth £24,000? No. My point is that these experiences are priceLESS. Hollaway, I don’t see how my ‘whole argument’ is based on that fact. Additionally, increasing employability potential didn’t even enter my head when choosing to attend university. I chose university for the lifestyle, life experiences and teaching of a subject I love. Perhaps that is one reason why I don’t see the debt as burdensome as other people? Harsh, I think you make a good point. International students are charged a rediculous amount more than national students which seems completely unfair. I definitely think universities should change this. However, all I can offer in defence is again that this system is a service that is offered to us. We’re not obliged to take up that offer, nor, do I believe, does it worsen our situation if we do not. The very fact that we are offered loans to take up this opportunity is brilliant and makes it accessible to far more people that it otherwise would be. Although, I acknowledge that this situation is very different for international students. It seems that everyone else would like university to be cheaper. But the burden is on you to provide a system as to HOW to do this justifiably. Please, just don’t make it out as if university isn’t a choice. It is. 🙂

  81. JD

    Whilst I agree – you fail to factor in that some countries, states or provinces in the world pay Universities to offer the education, and the students are allowed to study for free. I understand that this money therefore comes out of the collective pot, but to give an acedemic education to anyone who is interested, with no monetary restriction is surely the way to better many sectors of society?

  82. C Hollaway

    Your whole argument seems to be based on the fact you don’t plan to earn much money. Surely by going to University you hoped to increase your employability and therefore your wage. So more realistically should you not be looking at the amount you pay back on a salary such as 60k which you should hope to achieve one day?

  83. Harsh R

    I agree that the costs of uni is quite ridiculous. As an international student I have to pay £9000 a year on tuition alone. I don’t see why they need that much money to run a few lectures a week.

  84. J Henthorn

    I do see what you’re trying to say. But like Alice GB says, many of these experiences we could have gained off our own backs, without the need to pay an extra 3 grand a year for fees.

  85. Ellie B

    I agree with Alice, I’m a first year undergrad and I already feel like so much of this money is paying for.. what exactly? I only spend about 10 hours a week actually in lectures, why does it cost an extravagant amount. I just feel theres no real other way of progressing in life without a degree, but it seems like we are digging to get further down into debt without any knowledge of the ‘real world’.

  86. Alice GB

    Yes university does offer you these great opportunities but is it really £24,000 worth of opportunities? I feel that there is little I have gotton out of uni that I couldnt have done myself off my own back. Yes university is amazing but I don’t believe that it should ever cost us so much to experience this way of life. What kind of introduction to adulthood will we get with so much debt?!

  87. Duncan Coombe

    I agree with sentiment of this completley, one minor niggle the 9% is taken per year not per month, Great Article