Students from universities across Kent talk about college finance, debt and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic

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It’s no surprise that college students can borrow in the five-figure range, but what is it like living with looming debt at such a young age?

With the study week starting and tough money decisions, we have with some students in Kent about the fairness of fees and what it feels like to prepare for a job that pays them less per year than their studies cost them.

Georgia Erangey owes £ 40,000

Georgia Erangey, a 20-year-old college student from Gravesend, said, “At the end of my three years at college, I have £ 40,000 in debt.

“This money covered my course fees and my maintenance loan.

“I think it’s real debt, even if it doesn’t affect your creditworthiness. I panic a lot about money and I still have to pay it back.

“I really don’t understand why there is so much debt for three years of learning.”

When you finish your studies, you will not have to pay back your loan until you are making more than £ 27,295 a year.

Georgia is studying elementary school in Canterbury and continued, “When I leave college and start my job as a teacher, I get maybe £ 26-27,000 a year, so I’ll have to repay my loan as soon as I start working.

“I know you’re not paying back much, but it will be at a time when I start my life on my own and every little bit of money counts.

“I think it’s really unfair how student loans work. I am fortunate that I was able to work and that I also got money from my family.

“However, you have the feeling that you should only go to university if you can afford it. It is not the same, it is not accessible to everyone.

“Every student loan is paid for, but the amount of alimony you receive depends on your home situation.”

The minimum student living loan is £ 3,516 paid to students with a household income of £ 58,222 or more.

Georgia Erangey worries about paying back her student loan
Georgia Erangey worries about paying back her student loan

The maximum amount is £ 12,382 and is paid to students with an annual household income of £ 25,000 or less.

Georgia added, “My parents are divorced, so I don’t have a financial contribution from my father. That means my maintenance loan is higher than other races.

“Despite this university life, it’s a struggle, it’s tough and even I had to work and study at the same time to make ends meet, it’s so stressful, I’m not sure how others do it with even less money.

“When I started college, everyone warned me about how thin I would be, but I didn’t know how much debt I would have.

Georgia Erangey from Gravesend talks about her college debt
Georgia Erangey from Gravesend talks about her college debt

“A job of £ 27,000 compared to the £ 40,000 debt I have to do that is a bit of a joke.

“But don’t let money hold you back, don’t let university debts hold you back.

“I love university, I love living away from home, but being well prepared. It’s definitely an experience.”

In contrast to Georgia, not all students perceive their finances as a burden. Two other girls find that their university loans are not real debt at all.

A young lady, also from Gravesend, who does not want to be named because of her future career, is studying social work in Brighton.

The girl who doesn't want me named will be over £ 50,000 in debt when she finishes college.  Image from a picture agency
The girl who doesn’t want me named will be over £ 50,000 in debt when she finishes college. Image from a picture agency

She said, “I am in my senior year and by the end of my course I will be over £ 50,000 in debt.

“I’m aiming for a child welfare position and will probably start with an annual salary of £ 28,000.

“I do not consider the debt to be real debt, however, as it does not affect your creditworthiness and it is very unlikely that I will ever repay it in full.”

If you began your studies on or after September 1, 2012, your loans and debts will typically be written off 30 years after repayment begins.

She stated that while she wasn’t frightened by the money she owed, she believed that the students were paying too much.

She added: “Having been a student during the pandemic, it is clear that we are not getting our money (£ 9,250 per academic year).

“It’s pretty hard to budget and live in college. The dormitory rent is insane and probably most people’s maintenance loans don’t even cover that.

“I have probably about £ 500 each semester to last for three months after all of my rent is paid.

“In addition, on courses like mine, where we have to do internships, no part-time job is possible. So I would say that I’m definitely not financially stable at university and very dependent on my student overdraft.

“For everyone who wants to study, I say: definitely do it if you are sure that the chosen subject is what you want to study.

Currently around £ 17 billion is lent to approximately 1.3 million students in England each year.

A statement on the House of Commons library website said: “The value of loans outstanding reached £ 141 billion at the end of March 2021 and the government is forecasting loans outstanding at around £ 560 billion by the middle of this century.

“The average debt of students who completed their courses in 2020 was £ 45,000.

“However, the government estimates that only 25% of current full-time students who take out loans will pay back in full.”

Laura Robinson is a 20 year old from Hartley who is currently studying Fashion Media and PhD at UCA in Rochester.

Laura Robinson from Hartley
Laura Robinson from Hartley

She stated that she also thinks her college debts are unfair as most of her studies were at home during the pandemic.

She said, “I currently have £ 12,400 in debt after my first year, but when I graduate I hope to become a fashion buyer who can make between £ 30,000 and £ 100,000 a year.

“To be honest, the debt doesn’t really bother me as I know the university will have a huge impact on my future.”

Laura stated that she understands why the university costs so much as it will undoubtedly shape her future, but she believes the pandemic made last year’s fees inappropriately.

She continued, “Because of Covid, I find it unfair that we had to pay the full amount for a year of study that we basically did online.

Laura is studying at the UCA in Rochester
Laura is studying at the UCA in Rochester

“I live at home and travel to college, which I didn’t do often because of the lockdown, so the loan seemed a bit of a waste.

“Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend the university, you need it for certain professions and as long as you combine studies, work and social life, things should go well.”

Although many freshmen started their new degree this month, high school graduates looking to start studying in 2022 may want to apply for college funding before the results, even if you are unsure.

A spokesman for Canterbury Christ Church University Finance Bureau said, “We have a range of services to assist students with their finances.

“As part of our commitment to inclusive higher education, we offer university scholarships, grants and scholarships to support students with financial bottlenecks in accessing higher education or completing their studies.

Canterbury Christ Church University.  Image: Google Street View
Canterbury Christ Church University. Image: Google Street View

“In addition, our student advisors offer advice on budgeting and money management, including student banking, savings, and debt management.

“Unitemps, the university’s undergraduate and graduate recruiting service, provides part-time work in the local community to help students improve their finances, develop professional skills, and create their resumes.”

News from our universities, local elementary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and rankings can be found here.

Read more: All the news from Kent

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