Graduates in England Experienced Emotional & Psychological Disturbance Due to Student Loan Debts

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Graduates in England experienced some emotional and psychological disturbance, due to the amount of debt taken to cover their studies, according to a new report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).

The research named “Hidden Voices: Graduates’ Perspectives on the Student Loan System in England” carried out by professor Claire Callender and researcher Ariane de Gayardon was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Office for Students and Research England under Grant, reports.

Some 48 graduates who were subject to the 2006 funding regime paying tuition fees of £3,000 and 50 others who were required to pay £9,000 in tuition fees during the 2012 regime, said that they had experienced anxiety and despair due to the student loan debts.

According to them, interest rates are too high, even when the rate is linked to inflation. They have expressed frustration to see the loan balances increase, in particular when they are not asked to make repayments.

“They believe they will never repay their loans because the amount owed is so high. The sum is so large it becomes meaningless. Graduates purposely tend to distance themselves from the debt as a way of coping with the stress it causes,” the report reads.

In addition to interest rates, graduates have also highlighted that tuition fees of £9,000 and over are too high, questioning also if their degrees provide value for the money they pay. At the same time, they are worried about the repayment period, which they describe as “never-ending.”

Professor of Higher Education Policy at UCL Institute of Education, Claire Callender, said that the findings suggest the importance of listening to views of graduates and including them in discussions about the future of higher education funding in England, emphasizing also that graduates offer a different perspective on student loans. 

“Their experiences may not always be easy to listen to and may be contrary to policymakers’ thinking, intentions and vision,” Callender said.

Meanwhile, the researcher at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, Ariane de Gayardon, said that debt could have a [sychological impact on graduates, caused by the size and longevity, as well as the interest that is charged.

“ When reforming the loan system, one objective should be to reduce the burden of student debt for graduates. To do so, we need to listen to the voices of graduates,” Gayardon said.

As the report notes, student loan debt is considered a burden by many graduates of different degrees, particularly among students who started higher studies after the 2021 reforms.

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