Debt degree: True cost of UK university education to hit £100,000 - report

AFP Photo / William B. Plowman
The real price of a higher education degree in the UK will soon skyrocket up to £100,000, government documents obtained by the Independent have revealed. Thousands of students will spend huge sums on interest payments and other fees alone.

­Government figures show that only graduates who find well-paying jobs will be able to repay their debt quickly, saving thousands of pounds. Middle-income student borrowers will struggle for years to make payments.

There are currently 300,000 three-year and 117,000 four-year students in the UK. Upon enrolling, all these students were clandestinely charged – £3,300 and £5,000, respectively – for their tuition, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) website.

Many British students could end up paying back four times the initial cost of their higher education. When living costs are included, this sum skyrockets to £53,000 after graduation.

The UK government estimates that 70 percent of current students (300,000 people) who enrolled in university this autumn are expected to repay between £65,000 and £85,000. Students with the highest income after graduation will ultimately pay less than their lower-earning counterparts. Ten percent of students who will receive mid-range salaries could eventually pay between £85,000 and £100,000, while the remaining 20 percent will never be able to pay off their debts in full.

Estimates also show that most graduates with middle or low salary ranges won’t be able to repay their debt in full, which will be written off after 30 years.

"No one is aware of the long-term implications of this accounting wheeze. Higher education reform is a victimless crime and a massive tax time bomb. The Government has simply shifted all the debt off the accounting sheet for now – but, my God, will it come back and hit us in 30 years' time," Peter West, financial director at computer firm Portal told the Independent.

"Students will never forgive this government for hiking up the costs of going to university. This figures show that, as ever, it is middle- and lower-income families who are being hit hardest," Labour business spokesperson Chuka Umunna said.

The government report comes amid a recent wave of student protests in Britain over soaring tuition fees, youth unemployment and other financial burdens. Weeks ago, thousands across the country turned out for a protest organized by the National Union of Students, whose slogan read: ‘Educate, Employ, Empower.’ It was the first education-related protest since a wave of demonstrations two years ago when the UK’s coalition government raised tuition fees.

Student suicides have reportedly risen by 50 percent in the last four years – the Office for National Statistics revealed two weeks ago in a post on its website.

A month ago, education costs in the UK rose by more than 19 percent in the biggest one-month increase on record, the Guardian reported. The cost hike followed the near-tripling of tuition fees in the country to £9,000 a year.