25/05/2016 13:55 BST | Updated 26/05/2016 16:00 BST

Graduate Criticises Government's 'Underhanded' Student Loan Changes In Viral Letter

'We have lost our trust in this Government.'


A recent graduate's criticism of the government's “underhand” changes to student loans has gained support from thousands online.

UPDATE:Petition for debate of retrospective student loan changes achieves 100,000 signatures

Simon Crowther, a 22-year-old social media entrepreneur, described retrospective changes as “mis-selling” in a letter to his local MP.

“Along with many of my former university colleagues, we have lost our trust in this Government,” he wrote to Labour's Vernon Coaker.

Facebook / Simon Crowther
Simon Crowther's letter was removed from Facebook, after amassing 20,000 shares

Describing his inexperience of loans and interest rates, Simon, a University of Nottingham graduate, wrote: “I was still in the Sixth Form at school, when I agreed to the student loan.

"I had no experience of loans, credit cards or mortgages. Like all the other thousands of students in the UK, we trusted the Government that the interest rate would remain low - at around 0-0.5%.”

The letter which has now been deleted amassed at least 17,000 likes and received around 20,000 shares.

POOL New / Reuters
Martin Lewis OBE has spoken out against retrospective changes to student loans

Simon echoed the words of leading financial ‘money saving expert’ Martin Lewis, who has previously written to the prime minister to criticise retrospective changes to repayment thresholds for student loans.

Lewis cited overwhelming opposition to the change and asked: “I am confused why, despite such cross-society opposition, your Government pushed ahead with the retrospective change anyway?”

At the time Universities Minister Jo Johnson, responded: "Higher education will remain free at the point of entry.

"Students from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive significantly more living costs than students from wealthier backgrounds, while at university.”

Lewis has hired lawyers to explore the legality of the changes.

Simon Crowther
Simon Crowther's letter against retrospective changes to tuition fee interest rates has gone viral on Facebook

In November, George Osborne revealed the repayment threshold of £21,000 at which graduates must begin to pay back their loan will be frozen for five years.

This means that students who have paid the higher course fees of £9,000 a year, which were introduced in September 2012, will face higher repayments, as the income threshold will not match increases in average earnings.

However, a variable interest rate operates for those loans taken out since 2012. This rises to a maximum of 3.9% for graduates earning £41,000 or more after leaving their course.

Those earning less than £21,000 are charged around 0.9%, according to the Student Loans Company.

Simon told The Huffington Post UK that confusion is but one of the problems facing students.

He said: “This highlights the fact none of us have a clue, when I took a mortgage out I sat down with an advisor - there’s no such thing for a student loan.

“We were the first year and we had no idea what was going on.

“You have no option to shop around.

“I’d like this to put more pressure on the government. Young people have been screwed over, if you look at the older generation - they haven’t lost free TV licenses or bus passes.

“How are we meant to pay into a pension when we have this much debt?

“When the Student Loans Company wrote to me I thought ‘why do I even bother’. My sister no longer opens the letters, she says they’re too depressing.”

He said he was awaiting a response from Vernon Coaker, MP for Gedling, Notts, and might contact minister Jo Johnson in future.

An earlier version of this article said that Martin Lewis had campaigned against retrospective changes to student loan interest rates. In fact, Lewis has campaigned against changes to the loan repayment threshold.