A single student has amassed a debt of £189,700, the largest amount in England, according to official figures.
This comes as research warns of the severe “psychological toll” that high levels of student debt are taking on graduates.
The Student Loan Company (SLC) said that the figure was “an exceptional case”, and may have been accrued over loans for several courses (if the individual had undertaken postgraduate study or dropped out of multiple courses), according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
The FOI was sent by Craig Rossiter, who wondered whether his student debt of £61,000 may be the largest in the UK.
Mr. Rossiter dropped out of five university degrees, initially due to struggles with depression and drug abuse, before needing to secure a full-time job after having a baby.
After the FOI response was published on Reddit, several graduates cited student debts around the £100,000 mark.
“My loan of £49,510 has increased to £60,081 in three years since I graduated,” one person wrote. “And last month I paid £70. Basically works out like taxing me at 25 percent as opposed to 20 percent. Currently on track to have £152,000 of student loan debt by 2050.”
Another person said: “Mine is at £109,757 of which £2,755 of that is interest. I only graduated this year from a five-year course in London. Am never expecting to be able to pay it off fully.”
Students who graduated in 2020 took out an average of £45,060 in loans, according to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).
The report warned that graduates feel their debt is “draining, weighing them down, on their shoulders”, and causing them “anxiety, pressure, worry, and dread”.
Why burden students psychologically and materially with enormous debts when most will never fully repay them?
– Claire Callender, Professor of Higher Education at UCL
Many of the 98 graduates interviewed for the report, who started university between 2006 and 2013, felt that “tuition fees and interest rates are too high, the amount of debt owed is a burden, and the loan repayment period never-ending”.
Most reported fearing that “there is no light at the end of the tunnel”.
Claire Callender, Professor of Higher Education at UCL and one of the HEPI report’s authors, said: “It is essential we listen to graduates to develop evidence-based, sustainable, and fair higher education funding policies in the future.
“Why should the loans of even the poorest post-2012 students accrue such high-interest rates while they are studying and before they reap any benefits from their higher education? Why burden students psychologically and materially with enormous debts when most will never fully repay them?
“And is the student loan system and the income it generates for the Treasury really worth the potential long-term consequences for graduates’ welfare, life choices, and opportunities – affecting the lives of generations to come?”