Almost 1.8m people Owe £50,000 or More in Student Debt

Almost 1.8 million people are now in at least £50,000 of UK student debt, data obtained by BBC News reveals. More than 61,000 have balances of above £100,000, figures from the Student Loans Company (SLC) also show, while another 50 people each owe upwards of £200,000.

The statistics were released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the number of loan holders with above average debts who are eligible to start repayments.

The SLC previously said the average balance for loan holders in England when they start making repayments was less than £45,000. New government data, external shows that amount has now risen to £48,470.

Balances can be significantly higher for those who study multiple or lengthy courses and often rise rapidly with interest.

In 2023/24, some 2.8 million people in England made a student loan repayment, according to government figures, external released after the FOI response. That means only a small fraction of those repaying their balances are in more than £100,000 of debt – but the majority do owe more than £50,000.

It comes after the BBC revealed earlier this year that the highest UK student debt was more than £231,000. Around three months later, that figure has now hit £252,000.

Tom Allingham, from website Save The Student, said such balances were “alarming” but were “in no way indicative of the norm”.

Personal finance expert Martin Lewis told the BBC the debts should be seen more like a “limited form of graduate tax”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he explained: “Student finance for the vast majority of students is not about what you owe, but what you earn – you repay 9% of everything above a threshold.” For example, those on “Plan 2 loans”, external would pay 9% of everything earned over £27,295.

The National Union of Students (NUS) branded it “ridiculous” that none of the main parties are offering “reform” of student finance in the election campaign.

Debts are written off at the end of loan terms, regardless of how much is owed by that point. The terms are often 30 or 40 years, but depend on your course and start date, external.

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