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The government are currently consulting on a retrospective change to student loans in England, which will mean that many students who have taken out loans since 2012 have to pay even more when they start repaying them.
When the current student loans arrangement came into effect in 2012, the government said that from April 2017, the £21,000 figure would be increased each year in line with average earnings. However, they now want the £21,000 figure to be frozen, meaning that students will end up paying more each month than the government promised when they took out their loans. Retrospective changes such as this are incredibly dishonest and mean that the government are prepared to make us pay more money than we originally agreed in the terms.
According to Martin Lewis, the founder and editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, this change “goes against all rules of good governance in all areas, which frown upon retrospective changes”. He adds that no commercial company would be allowed to change its terms after something like this, and that they would most likely be punished by a regulator. Therefore, if the government is successful and implements this change, the student loans system will gain a reputation for financial dishonesty which would not be easy to shrug off in future years.
LUSU VP (Education) Ben Harper revealed to me that he opposes “the dirty tactics this government has resorted to, whereby inaction in raising the threshold is actually negative action against students regarding their repayment terms”. He also noted that this has received very little publicity in the British media because this change was made so discreetly. I must admit that I haven’t come across anything in the media before writing this piece, despite reading the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the BBC News website on a daily basis.
In slightly more positive news, Business Secretary Sajid Javid has defended this proposal arguing that threshold or repayment rates might have to be increased to stop budget pressures getting “out of control”. I understand that the government needs to hold such control as they need to reduce the deficit and repay national debt. However, unfortunately, I don’t see any excuse to carry out such a change to people who are already taking out student loans.
Therefore, I urge the government to rethink this proposal. If they are facing budgetary pressures and need to balance the books, they could at least out of good sense retain the current arrangements for students taking out loans after 2012, even if they have to freeze or reduce the £21,000 figure for students starting university after the freeze comes into effect. I am not saying this as someone campaigning against tuition fees and student loans, but indeed as someone who values integrity and financial honesty.