THE BLOG

Making Adult Learning More Accessible Through Government-Funded Loans

11/06/2013 16:10 BST | Updated 10/08/2013 10:12 BST

Earlier this year the Government announced that it is introducing loans for learners aged 24 and over, who are studying at Level 3 or 4, including advanced and higher apprenticeships. The new loans will be called 24+ Advanced Learning Loans and will apply to those starting their course or apprenticeship on or after 1 August 2013.

24+ Advanced Learning Loans will replace public funding for learners accessing this provision, representing around 10% - 15% of learners currently funded through the Skills Funding Agency. Younger learners and those seeking to gain basic qualifications at Level 2 and below will continue to be funded through the public service. Adult learners can apply to Student Finance England (part of the Student Loans Company) for these loans.

When higher education loans were first introduced people were rightly concerned about getting into debt. In many cases it put them off going into higher education and at the very least made them think carefully about their decision to take on a loan. A positive outcome was that some considered other options such as apprenticeships, which is for many a better route. I can't stress enough the benefits of adding to your qualifications and firmly believe that the payback, although sometimes not immediate, is definitely worth the investment.

In today's highly competitive market, employers are seeking additional skills and, at the first step in the recruitment process, will select those with better qualifications. It is therefore important that people continue to invest in their education throughout their career rather just at the start.

The positive aspect of the new loan scheme is that for the first time adults, who might not have previously been eligible, can access a loan to fund a course and help them to progress in the job they are in or to develop a new career or vocation. This is a real opportunity which will make a significant difference to improving their life chances.

People with qualifications at higher levels get greater benefit in the job market. Every year thousands of local people study with us to gain higher qualifications and benefit from new skills and knowledge. We are also very aware that paying for education can be difficult, so for many this new funding option will make on-going learning possible.

In terms of the detail, 24+ Advanced Learning Loans will cover the cost of tuition and will be available through the Student Loans Company in a similar way to existing student loans. Repayments are based on a fixed proportion of income, starting once the borrower earns over £21,000, and are set at 9% of income over that threshold.

Loans are not means tested or subject to credit tests and cover the duration of the course, which can be up to three years. Also, if the student is studying on an access to higher education course they will not have to repay their 24+ loan if they progress to higher education and successfully gain a degree.

Students will start repaying the loan through the tax system from the April after they have finished the course if they are earning at least £21,000 (the first repayments will not start until April 2016).

Gaining new qualifications will not only boost an individual's knowledge and skills, but it also shows commitment and motivation to current and prospective employers. At Reading College we already have a wide range of options available with 24+ loans eligible on Level 3 and 4 courses including A-levels, access to higher education, BTEC diplomas, advanced or higher apprenticeships.