The UK government announced its plans to resume the sale of roughly £3.7 billion in student loan debt by the end of the year. While this means the debt will most likely be transferred to private companies, the government assured borrowers they won’t be affected by the sale.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said that the terms and conditions will remain the same for borrowers after the sale, including for those whose loans are a part of the sale. He added that repayments will continue to be collected and administered by the Student Loans Company.
This sale will involve education loans that became eligible for repayment between 2002 and 2006. The move was originally announced last February, but it had been put on hold for the past eight months. The government tried to relaunch the sale in early spring, but it was ultimately put off due to the election in April.
The move isn’t unprecedented. Vince Cable, the former Secretary of State for Business, devised a similar plan to sell student loans in 2014. Cable ultimately abandoned the plan once he realized it wouldn’t help the government minimize its overall debt. When he heard about the sale last February, Cable tweeted, “Government sale of student loan book makes no economic sense. Which is why I blocked it.”
This time around, other critics were quick to express their concerns with the sale, pointing out that the government has changed the terms on student loans before. Furthermore, Financial advisor Martin Lewis mentioned that an earlier sale of a student loan book to private companies did end up causing problems for many borrowers.
Due to administrative errors, many graduates received letters demanding repayment, even though they had not yet reached the income threshold for repayment. Lewis stated that he hoped the fallout would not be the same as last time, but that it remained to be seen if the government would deliver on its promise.
If the past couple years serve as a basis for comparison, then borrowers may have reason to be concerned. Last April, there was an outcry from both students and graduates when interest rates on student loans raised nearly a third to 6.1 percent after the inflation surge. And in 2015, the government came under heavy scrutiny after changing the conditions of loans taken out after 2012.
Graduates in the UK begin repaying their loans once they reach an earnings threshold. Starting in April 2017, this threshold was supposed to increase each year to stay on target with average earnings. The former Chancellor froze this earnings threshold so it would remain the same until April 2021. This caused many people to claim the UK government had broken its agreement with students.
The UK has had plenty of problems with student loan debt. For instance, many foreign students within the European Union were taking out student loans - only to neglect repayment later on as they left the country. Furthermore, debt levels are reaching record levels throughout the nation.