UK students now have more debt than Americans

Thanks Nick Clegg


There are a lot of things that come to mind when thinking of college in America. Red cups, beer pong, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education. The idea that American college is expensive is so ingrained into our psyche thanks to years of off-hand references to “college funds” layered into the last 20 years of American TV.

You see the parties and the movies and the big beautiful campuses, but sleep easy at night knowing that although you go to uni in a grim post-industrial wasteland, at least you’re not going to be in as much debt as our cousins across the pond.

But as it turns out, you’re wrong.

Research by the Sutton Trust found that since the tuition fees tripling, English students will graduate with an average debt of £44,000. Even before tuition fees go up again this year,More than the average American student, even more than Ivy League students who go to unis where it costs you over $60,000 a year to attend. Not only that, they also go to uni for a full year longer than us and still mange to graduate with just £23,000 in debt.

But how is this possible? £9k a year is nowhere near $60,000 and three is less than four, that’s just basic maths. Well even though on paper American colleges are charging huge sums for tuition, room and board, and everything else under the sun. Very few people actually pay full whack.

American unis offer far more scholarships, discounts and special prices if you attend a college in the state where you live.

Caroline, a recent alum of the University of Massachusetts, graduated with no debt whatsoever. Thanks to a scholarship, the $31,000 a year out of state tuition fee was completely wiped. Instead of having to find over $40,000 to cover tuition, room and board and food, she just paid for her accommodation.

Caroline just graduated with less debt than you

Caroline just graduated with less debt than you

She said: “It was an academic scholarship, I had to write essays to get it but I am also sure they would not have given it to me were I below a 3.8 GPA (average grade of an A-).”

And it’s not just public universities that can wipe tuition for the right people. Americans who go to private, for profit universities still have less debt than your average Brit. Thanks to the few that can fork out the hundreds of thousands needed for a degree, private universities can afford to subsidise athletes, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and anyone that meets whatever criteria they set. Meaning that in any given lecture hall in America, literally everyone could be paying a different amount to be there.

The only redeeming feature of all this is that once you have graduated, the current repayment plans are nowhere near as bad as in the US. Here, you start to pay only when you hit a salary of £21,000 and if you don’t pay it off in 30 years (most of us won’t) then it gets wiped.

In America, there is no minimum salary, there is no get-out clause after 30 years.

Karen, a recent graduate with around $28,000 of debt, will have to start paying back her loans in six months, no matter the circumstances. “Loans don’t get pardoned here and you have to pay them regardless of your financial situation. It’s so unfair, you can’t stop paying them even if you’re unemployed.

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“If you don’t qualify for state or federal funding, you have to go private to banks and for-profit loans companies. They can charge whatever interest rates they want, and set whatever terms they decide.

“You have to find the money somehow.”