PensionBee, an online pension company, has shared some news about student loans. They say students starting university this year could still be paying back their student loans when they’re old and retired! This is due to the introduction of the new ‘Plan 5’ loan, which means that any remaining debt will not be written off until 40 years after the individual leaves university, instead of the previous 25 or 30 years.
PensionBee highlights that this could result in today’s new students making their final student loan repayments from their pension income in the future. Currently, loan repayments begin at a rate of 9% of earnings over £25,000, with the interest rate for Plan 5 loans currently capped at 7.1%. However, these terms mean that graduates taking out full loans from this year could still be repaying their loan well beyond the current Normal Minimum Pension Age of 55.
PensionBee explains that graduates who don’t leave university until their mid to late 20s could potentially be repaying their student loan once they are beyond the current State Pension age of 66, or even the future State Pension age of 68. There is also the possibility that the State Pension age could rise further, with a Government-led review suggesting it could be as high as 74 by the time this year’s Freshers reach their retirement years.
The cost of education is also a significant factor. The full maintenance loan for one year for someone living away from home outside of London is £9,978, and for a three-year degree, it amounts to £29,934. For those living away from home and studying in London, the full maintenance loan is £13,022 per year or £39,066 for a three-year degree. In addition, tuition fee loans are £9,250 per year. Therefore, someone taking out full tuition fees and maintenance loans for three years in London could potentially owe up to £66,816, excluding interest.
PensionBee presents a scenario where a graduate with a starting salary of £30,000, increasing by 2% every year for 40 years, would be repaying the loan for the full 40 years. Over this period, they would repay a total of £27,180, with the remaining amount being written off. Even someone with a higher starting salary of £35,000, experiencing the same salary increases, could still face repaying the loan for the maximum 40 years and end up repaying £54,361 without managing to clear the total debt.
The impact of long-term student loan repayments on graduates’ financial lives is a concern. Becky O’Connor, Director of Public Affairs at PensionBee, highlights that meeting repayments for a full 40 years could force individuals to work longer and deny them a significant portion of their earnings that could otherwise be allocated for property purchases or saving for retirement.
PensionBee’s management suggests that the government needs to find creative solutions to alleviate the burden of student loans on graduates’ financial prospects, “The Government needs to get creative with solutions to the problem of student loans negatively affecting the rest of graduates’ financial lives. The interest rate saddles those who choose the university path with costly debt for life. It might be a tax by another name, but the effect on disposable income is the same.” The interest rate on student loans places a costly debt burden on those who choose the university path, affecting their disposable income. This not only makes it harder for graduates to get a mortgage but also hinders their ability to save for retirement. With the numerous financial pressures that this generation faces, including high house prices and the need to save for their own retirement, student loan repayments act as an ongoing obstacle to their financial prospects and retirement plans.