Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Student Loan Repayments Are Cheaper Than Your Daily Coffee Says Universities Minister

The Debrief: Greg Clark says that university is a 'phenomenal investment' and suggests repayments are manageable, but Labour are not so sure...

Are you en route to grab a cup of coffee right now? Or already nursing a styrofoam cup of milk froth and silky bitter liquid? Well, the universities minister MP Greg Clark has said that your much needed morning cup of  caffeine costs more than student repayments. And if you just gave it up, well all your student debt worries would be over. 

He was seeking to justify the rise in student fees of up to £9,000 (to counter the speculation Labour are to promise to drop the student fees) he explained that, if a graduate’s earning £30,000, the repayment will cost just over two quid to repay a day, and that your education is a ‘phenomenal investment’.

Mr Clark actually made the comments a month ago at a debate on science policy at the Royal Society (he’s also the minister for science and cities), but they have only emerged now, reports The Times, ‘First of all it is important that we don’t distract from the fact that for students under the system that we have, if you have a great education you only pay back if you’re earning over £21,000 and only 9% of your earnings above that.’

‘What that means is if you earn £30,000 as a graduate you pay back £2.22 a day, now there are people who buy cups of posh coffee for less than that, and I think people recognise that that is a phenomenal investment, it’s not just a good investment for the student, but actually it’s a good investment for the taxpayer.’

Hmmm, this runs on the suggestion that going to university affords the average graduate an entitlement to a £30,000-a-year job. And yet according to the HECSU’s findings, the average salary for UK employment six months after graduation (hands up who knows someone who didn’t get a job six months after graduation) is more like £18,000-£24,000.

If you’re at the top of that bracket, you’ll only be repaying 60p a day (shitty cup of tea), which seems reasonable. However… the Student Loans Company charges a hell of a lot of interest on all the money owed. And that’s why there are projected statistics out there saying that three quarters of students won’t repay their loan until they themselves are in their fifties.

Chukka Umunna, the shadow business secretary said, ‘These bizarre remarks from universities minister Greg Clark show just how out of touch Tory ministers are on the huge costs and debts now facing students. They demonstrate a deeply dismissive attitude towards the real concerns which students and parents have on the cost of a degree… The average student debt now stands at £43,500 – more than double what it was under the old system.’

As for the universities themselves? Universities UK, a group of vice-chancellors from across the country, recently said the solution doesn’t seem to be based in lowering student fees (which could see a £10 billion hole in their budget), but easing living costs while students are studying. 

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Picture: Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Tags: University, Money worries, Education