Students shouldn’t be criminalised for failing to pay back their student loans

Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson
Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson

When I started university in October, I thought that life was going to take a turn for the better. Here I was starting a new part of my life as a student which would involve being drunk for considerable periods of time, making D bar my second home (shout out to all the bar staff who are amazing) and starting to learn about my degree through seminars, debating amongst friends and trying to stay awake in lectures.

However, I never thought I would become a criminal in waiting. I do not recall reading any information saying that by the end of university I would be on the path of being a criminal. I knew about the minimum level of debt I would be in after finishing my degree but nothing – absolutely nothing – about being a criminal once I left university. 

If you don’t know about what I am talking about, I am referring to the Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson.  Johnson stated that the government will prosecute those who fail to pay their student loan back despite admitting that the majority of people who take loans pay them back. This one statement has made me lose all respect for the Conservative Party (coming from an individual who flirted with the idea of joining the party when Mr Corbyn entered office as leader of Labour) because it epitomises how cold and utterly ruthless the Conservatives are. If you voted for this Government at the General Election, I honestly don’t know what to say to you. Students have had their debts increase threefold, seen maintenance grants reduced to ash (in which this student benefits heavily from) and seen increased debt in the form of maintenance loans.  Add the fact that students will have to pay more back per month due to them freezing the threshold to start paying back the debt from £21,000 onwards and You can almost sense the Tories wanting students to become criminals when we cannot pay back the debt repayments on time. 

The best bit is that Jo Johnson has four separate degrees according to his official website. I can barely think about financing one degree, let alone four. So it then raises the question, why did he set this policy in the first place? The simple answer is to maintain the UK’s “world-class education system while living within its means… to ensure the sustainability of the student finance system, and value for money, for the taxpayer.” This makes no sense considering that by Johnson’s own admission, the majority pay back the debt (with interest). 

I wish I could go back in time and just tell myself, “Don’t go to university! It’ll kill you from the debt and the Government has a lot of nasty surprises for you in store!” The Government has been in office for less than a year and we have seen this erosion of financial support for students who would find the cost crippling. To make this clear for anyone who thinks that I want to bankrupt the nation to pay for my tuition: I believe fundamentally that you should pay your debts back.  However, for students who are the future intellectuals of this nation, who will be helping this nation move onwards on the global stage, who will be paying through taxes for all the services given by Government (including their salaries and their expenses) threatening to brand students as criminals if they don’t repay their student loans, destroying their credit ratings, and alienating them is not conducive for them and or for this nation. It goes against every basic theory on generating sustainable growth and is simply heartless. 

So I wish you fellow readers the best of luck for the future, for we have a government bent on alienating us and criminalising us for something that in their time was free for all to benefit from.

2 thoughts on “Students shouldn’t be criminalised for failing to pay back their student loans

  1. The repayment threshold means that anyone who is supposed to be paying back their loan are able to pay back their loan…. So how is avoiding doing so not criminality?

  2. You said it yourself – the threshold for paying back is £21,000 so nobody who can’t afford to repay their loans is going to be “criminalised”. This only applies to those who knowingly dodge their debts by hiding their income or leaving the country without making repayment arrangements. You’re prosecuted if you dodge taxes, why should this be any different?

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