According to the latest data, Scotland suffers the most from the troubles with student debt rises.
During the past 5 years, Scottish students’ debts have increased by 75%. This data comes with the statistics by the Student Loans Company (SLC). Last year graduates have gathered a debt of £10,500, comparing with £5,990 for the graduates of 2010.
The Scottish government was warned they need to think of some reforms that would help students who can’t afford full education to be helped and supported. NUS Scotland offered a way out of the situation – focusing not on the debts students may have, but on providing them with grants.
All in all, the students in Scotland have borrowed much less than their colleagues from the rest of the UK, as they don’t have tuition fees to pay. But the rate at which borrowing has increased is far higher than anywhere else in the UK.
In total, the amount lent to Scottish higher education students in 2015-16 was £548.3 million, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year.
NUS Scotland said the rise in the average student loan is the result of reforms in 2013, which enabled students to borrow more money.
At the time, NUS Scotland supported the move, but now believes it is time for further reform.
Its president, Vonnie Sandlan, said: “While NUS Scotland was pleased when the Scottish government heeded our calls to improve student support, evidence clearly shows that students are continuing to struggle.
“Previous figures have starkly demonstrated the difficult choice students face — take their loan and the high debt that comes with it, or don’t take it and try to make do on the little bursary support they receive.
“That’s particularly the case among our poorest students — the ones who were meant to benefit greatest from previous reforms, but can feel the consequences the most, instead.
“When the previous reforms, and higher loans, were introduced it was vital that we got more money into students’ pockets. Now we’re starting to see the effects of that system come through, we should grasp the opportunity to look again at the system, and review it with a view to creating the fairest support we can.”
The SLC figures show that the average amount owed by students on graduation rose by 52 per cent in England, 32 per cent in Northern Ireland, and 23 per cent in Wales over the same five-year period when Scotland saw a 75 per cent increase.
NUS Scotland said these latest figures did not yet include a full cohort of students who entered Scottish higher education under the 2013 reforms to student support. The full picture will not be clear until 2018, when the average debt will be even higher.
Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “It is increasingly clear that the current SNP arrangements are not sustainable, most especially as the SNP has told all universities that they must take 20 per cent of their intake from the 20 per cent most disadvantaged communities.
“If that is to happen without squeezing out other students, more university places must be paid for and more bursary places must be provided. In both cases, that demands a rethink from the Scottish government on funding.”
Shirley-Anne Somerville, minister for further and higher education, said: “We welcome the fact that students start their working lives with significantly lower levels of student loan debt than if we pursued the same market- driven policies as elsewhere in the UK.
“We will always take the opportunity to improve student support where we can.”