Image sourced through CC search
After Universities Minister, Jo Johnson, sparked outrage on social media early this month for uttering something in a statement that sounded like all students would be forced to pay back their entire loan or face prosecution, a petition was started.
The petition (which I did sign) was entitled 'Stop plans to make it a criminal offence to not pay back your student loan'. It was click bait, and played upon the popular anti-government rhetoric of the day, and so at present has over 45k signatures meaning that the government will have to provide some form of a response.
As pointed out by blogger Ellie Patten, this petition was another sensationalist piece that had us jumping to conclusions before reading the full story. What Jo Johnson said was: "We will take stronger action to trace borrowers including those overseas, act to recover loan repayments where it is clear borrowers are seeking to avoid repayment, consider the use of sanctions against borrowers who breach loan repayment terms and, if necessary, prosecute".
Meaning that those who purposefully skip the country to avoid repayment, and who earn enough to repay, MAY face prosecution. That does seem fair, when those of us that are stuck in this country are having to repay. There is a bigger problem however with the whole government attitude towards student loans. The whole system is predicated on the belief that people go to university to earn big bucks, when that simply is not always the case.
With the current structure, the more you earn, the more you pay back. But what the government don't take into consideration is that many of us graduates will sit quite happily on a 20-30k a year job for some time post-uni. This isn't a conscious choice to evade paying our loans back (although that is a nice little advantage), but because (somewhat counter-culturally) we do not place money at the centre of our world. We are not all cash grabbing capitalists whose sole goal is to earn, earn, earn, because we actually have a soul. Shock horror. Of course, there are vocations that people can be passionate about, with which you can make money, but I'm talking about the people that want to work for non-profits or small local organisations that can make a tangible change in this world.
It is estimated over 45 per cent of students will never pay their full loan back. There was already a big surprise for us lot that got in just before the tipping point of ludicrous 9k fees, who just started to pay back last year. The revelation was, that despite being led to believe student loans were interest free before applying to university or whilst studying, we were in fact charged interest from day one, meaning we owe close to twice what we anticipated (see image). Therefore, I am quite happy to earn a modest wage and pay the minimum back for as long as it takes for it to be written off out of principle. I refuse to be screwed by the system for an education which in my opinion, should have been free to access in the first place like the generations that preceded us.
Image taken by Kylie Barton
Many students do not go to university to get a £50k+ a year job, but to learn about something they are interested in, and then hope they can find work in a related field which makes them happy. Money doesn't make us happy. Many of us do not look at the salary, perks, etc. first. I want a job with meaning, not money. For a company or organisation with soul and social purpose, not that puts profit before people.
The system is flawed because not all student put money as the KPI of what makes a good job. That is the presumption of the Tory government which will mean that student loans inevitably will remain unpaid.