STUDENT DEBT MADE HALF OF APPLICANTS THINK TWICE ABOUT GOING TO UNIVERSITY
Research by Equifax reveals that the thought of student debt puts prospective students off the idea of going to university, and gives financial tips for students ● Half (49%) of university students and graduates aged 18-22 said that the prospect of taking out a student loan made them think twice about attending university ● One third (36%) said that new government changes to student loans, with graduates paying back sooner and for longer, would deter future students.
Half (49%) of university students and graduates said that the prospect of student debt made them think twice about taking up their place at university, according to new research (1) from credit reference agency Equifax. The large debt associated with attending university was enough to make graduates think twice, even though they go on to earn £10,000 more than non-graduates (2).
The research comes as the final UCAS application deadline passes on Thursday 30th , after this date prospective students have three weeks to weigh up if they want to take up their offers, and if they can afford to do so.
A third of respondents (36%) predicted that the situation would worsen as changes to student loans, including lowering the income threshold for repayments and extending the period of the loan, would deter future students from attending university. In April, major changes to student loan terms that
are expected to increase the debt burden for young graduates across the UK were announced. These include a ten-year increase to the repayment period for new entrants next year; a freeze to the income threshold at which graduates since 2012 repay, and changes to the way that threshold increases over time (3).
For those who will start university in 2023, these changes mean they can expect to pay £750 more each year on their student loan repayments. But it is not just the freshers of the future who can expect to pay more, those who entered university this year (and every year since 2012) will be repaying about £400 more than their graduate predecessors. Half (47%) of those who benefitted
from the much lower pre-2012 fees think that these changes will likely result in an intergenerational divide and over a third (36%) believe it is unfair.
Paula Roche, Managing Director of Consumer Solutions at Equifax UK said: “With the looming UCAS offer deadline, 17- and 18-year-olds will be asking themselves whether or not they can afford to go to university in the coming days. This is increasingly becoming a more agonising decision as our research shows that graduates are becoming more concerned that going to university isn’t paying off. In turn, our research has also shown that these worries mean that graduates are ending up more anxious about managing their money than peers who didn’t go to university. Prospective students will be seeing these facts and asking themselves if university really is all that when it comes to future financial security.
“While student loan repayments might be a cause for worry for many people, it is important to remember that they don’t appear on your credit score, and that repayments vary by income, so people are usually only paying back what they can afford. But prospective students should be aware that if they are using other forms of credit to supplement their student loan while at university this could affect their ability to get credit after they graduate.
"This is why its so important for students to remember to pay their energy, water, and mobile phone bills on time and to spend sensibly on credit cards, so they don’t end up with debt they can’t pay back, lowering their credit score.”
Equifax has created a credit information module for students on its Knowledge Centre, where young people can learn about accessing credit and managing money, and view a short video with money savvy Tik Tok content creators Elvire Matu and Jordan Green.
These can be viewed at Student Debt Divide
Five top tips for students readying their finances for freshers:
1. Pick your student account wisely, there are many with lots of perks and those with a large overdraft might seem like a good thing when you’re a fresher, but you’ll be in trouble if you can’t pay back what you owe after you graduate.
2. Don’t let peer pressure push you into problem debt, take time to understand your monthly incomings and outgoings and live within your means while at university. This will ensure you’re setting yourself up for financial success after you graduate.
3. If you’re opening a credit card or using buy now, pay later loans, make sure repayments are set up and you aren’t missing them. It might not seem like a big deal at the time but missed payments can stay on your credit file for six years – well after you’ve left uni and got your grad job!
4. It is really important to pay your bills on time. Yes, student living can be hectic and sometimes you don’t know which one of your housemates is responsible for paying for water or energy or wifi, but a missed payment can have implications well after you’ve stopped living like a uni student.
5. If you need help, reach out. University is expensive, if you’re struggling to pay for your living costs let your university know, they might be able to help you. Its always better to reach out for help early and set yourself up with a plan for financial security now and in the future.
1 = Consumer research conducted by Opinium of 3,035 UK adults aged 18-40 [16th December 2021 and 3rd March 2022]
2 = Department for Education https://www.gov.uk/government/news/graduates-continue-to-benefit-with-
higher-earnings (29 April 2019)
3 = Department of Education https://www.gov.uk/government/news/fairer-higher-education-system-for-students-and-taxpayers (24 March 2022).
4 = Institute for Fiscal Studies, ‘Student loans reform is a leap into the unknown’ (p.9): https://ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN341-Student-loans-reform-is-a-leap-into-the-unknown.pdf