For the average student from the average working family it now costs around £40,000 to qualify as a secondary teacher with a PGCE – down to £25,000 if you are fortunate enough to be able to live with family for free throughout the four years.
While many socialists praise the accessibility of higher education for families of all incomes thanks to student loan facilities, others are quick to criticise the investment necessary for us to participate in essential public sector careers such as nursing and teaching.
Fortunate enough to start my undergraduate degree pre-coalition-fee-hike, I (only!) owe around £22,000 for my BA. However, I did not escape the controversial fee rise for my PGCE (which was only available 300 miles from my hometown) and consequently I owe around £12,000 for that single additional year.
That leaves me owing 150 per cent of my starting salary, and yet this is very much the beginning of a series of figures that I have been misled by. Here are some things you might not know about student loans for any NQTs starting higher education after 1998.
Although NQTs don’t start paying any loans back until the April following graduation, interest starts the day after you receive the first undergraduate loan instalment, and accumulates over your degree and PGCE. So for the average NQT, you’ve already gained £1,200-plus interest before you’ve even opened the vacancies pages of the educational press, or thrown your mortarboard in the air.
Government student loans taken out after 1998 do not show on credit reports, however lenders take account of repayments just like any other regular commitment, so these pre-tax deductions could cause loan issues for many years after graduating.
For anyone graduating pre-2012, interest rates are not fixed, and are either calculated against the Retail Price Index or the highest base rate of a nominated group of banks plus one percentage point. With the base rate still sunk at 0.5 per cent, this means anyone who got tuition fee loans pre-coalition-fee-hike is getting a good deal right now! This also means that for people like me, who have an undergraduate loan from one government, and a PGCE loan from another, there are two different rates of interest applied to the debt from each!
The Student Loans Co only refreshes its statements once a year, so it is quite possible (long into the future!) to continue to pay for a number of months even though the initial sum and interest has been paid off. The only solution to this is to pay by direct debit, but this removes the considerable advantage gained from before-tax deduction, although this clearly won’t be a problem for a few years yet! I’m currently due to pay off my debt around my 39th birthday.
I am really worried that it won’t be long before some of the difficulties above start to have an impact on the supply of teachers from our next generation. I’m concerned about the effect such massive debt will have on my future, and I feel that student loan advertising and information remains misleading and inaccurate.
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.