Students: Loans

Department for Education written question – answered on 30th March 2021.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the finding by the UCL Institute of Education in June 2017 which found that risk of student loan debt deters students from poorer backgrounds from applying to university.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

The government’s approach to student finance ensures that costs are split fairly between borrowers and the taxpayer and has helped more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds go to university than ever before. Data for 2020 shows, there were 25,820 placed English 18-year-old applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds (POLAR Q1), entry rate of 24.0%. Both are the highest on record.

Higher education (HE) providers wishing to charge higher levels fees (£9250) must have an access and participation plan agreed by Office for Students. Plans set out how they will support, including providing financial support, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented groups to access and successfully participate in HE.

Student finance is available to all eligible students, irrespective of their background and credit history. The current system protects borrowers if they see a reduction in their income. Monthly repayments are linked to income, not to interest rates or the amount borrowed. Repayments are made based on a borrower’s monthly or weekly income, not the interest rate or amount borrowed, and no repayments are made for earnings below the repayment threshold, which is currently equivalent to £26,575 a year for borrowers with a post-2012 loan, rising to £27,295 from 6 April 2021. Borrowers are protected, as their repayments decrease if their income decreases, and stops where income falls below the relevant repayment threshold. Any outstanding debt is written off after 30 years or in line with the terms of their specific loan type, with no detriment to the borrower. This write-off (currently around 50%) is a government subsidy of the cost of HE and is a conscious investment in our people and the skills base of the economy.

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