Parents Against Student Debt

Since 2012, students have had to swallow eye-watering tuition fees and sky-high interest rates on their loans, leaving many of them with around £50,000 of debt that they will have to pay back over the next 30 years. The government is now making students going into higher education from 2023/24 pay back their loans for 40 years, so these graduates may not escape repaying their loans until into their early 60s. Debts at these levels are already damaging lives. Moreover, this has happened while the government has made unilateral changes to the terms and conditions. IF has already published reports on: the public benefit of higher education; the unsustainability of the student loan system; the erosion of the graduate premium; and the long debt-tail of student loans. The current system is far from fair for all young people since the 10% wealthiest students pay their fees upfront and avoid 30 years of repayment.

Real Life Student Debt Stories

Listen to PASD supporter Carmel Neale’s interview explaining the debt her son will face over his working life.

“I am haunted by the fact that my profoundly deaf daughter could be robbed of any quality of life as she faces a 30-year-long debt. Her recent loan statement saying she owes £62,000, on top of the enormous challenge she faces in finding a job, is devastating.”

– Karen, mother

“It is deeply unfair that my son faces carrying a £50,000 debt and paying an extra 9% tax for the next 30 years of his life for a qualification that I got for free. We should be investing in our children’s higher education, not turning them into cash cows to be milked for the next 30 years.”

– Johnny, father

“Huge sums of money are being offered to 17/18 year-old school children with little or no experience of finance, tax or interest rates, believing the myth that ‘you never pay it back.’ No advice required, no warnings, no compulsory education beforehand. The first inkling of their true commitment only emerging when the first statement drops though the door, four years after they started university. In any other financial service this, together with the lack of information regarding the increasing debt, would be construed as mis-selling to a vulnerable age group.”

– Jennifer, mother

“My son is being charged £1,800 for a year out working even though he is not at uni at all, all year. The placement is nothing to do with the uni (he had to find it). He has to produce a 2,000 word essay, 25min presentation and 10,000 word journal that will be assessed next summer. Can there be any reason they are charging £1,800 for what can only be 3-4 hours work tops?”

– Terry, mother

“Why should my son, who has epilepsy, is struggling at university, and had to take time out, face so much debt over his lifetime? He is paying high fees and an extortionate interest rate. The government must address this.”

– Caris, mother

“Four years doing a master’s course in London, my daughter now has over £60,000 of debt, with interest accruing faster than she can pay off. She is struggling to keep working as she feels her situation is so hopeless – I raised my children to see debt as a negative and we never had credit cards etc and she feels completely overwhelmed with this ever increasing burden around her neck. How can this be right? Who is making a profit from these high interest rates being paid by these poor young people?”

– Joanna, mother

Below are key unfairnesses in the current system:

    • Current students on Plan 2 loans face interest charges of 7.3%
    • High inflation means students and graduates could see big hikes in the size of their debt
    • Loan repayments for Plan 2 loans at 9% of income over £27,975 on top of 12% National Insurance and 20% Basic Rate Income Tax means a marginal 41% tax burden & that’s before 2% auto-enrolment pension contributions and high housing and living costs
    • Top university pay has sky-rocketed with the Top 10 Vice Chancellors (VCs) earning more than £400,000 a year, and six earning more than £500,000 
    • Average university halls accommodation in 2021/22 was around £166 per week. Rates in 2023 are likely to be higher
    • Maintenance grants to help the poorest students have been withdrawn, forcing them to take larger means-tested maintenance loans
    • Means-tested maintenance loans have not kept up with inflation and have risen by a mere 2.8% in 2023/24. They also have a built-in mechanism that expects parents to cover the difference between the amount given by the Student Loan Company (SLC) and actual living costs. Few parents realise that they are expected to contribute and may not be able to subsidise their children during the current cost-of-living crisis

What can I do?

  • Share your story to show your support. Email [email protected] 
  • Write to your MP to demand action to stop further fee hikes, increase student maintenance loans and reduce the repayment rate and repayment term

What we’re calling for:

  • Reduce the high debt and tax burden on graduates, by sharing the cost of educating our future workforce more fairly
  • Restore maintenance grants for students from poorer families to allow them to be able to afford to go to university
  • Increase student maintenance loans so that students can afford their living costs. Maintenance loans have risen by just 2.8% in 2023 when other benefits have risen by more than 10%
  • Play fair with young people: guarantee the terms of borrowing and repayment, and return student loans to the protection of the Consumer Credit Act
  • Show students value for money: make institutions open their books on how student fees are spent
  • Stop universities and/or private providers from increasing uni accommodation costs above inflation
  • Stop peddling the myth of the “graduate premium”, which promises unrealistically high salaries for graduates

Write to your MP

Please use the template text below and visit to find your MP. Follow the instructions from there.

Dear [Fill in MP name],

I am writing to you in support of the Intergenerational Foundation’s Parents Against Student Debt campaign.

We believe it is fundamentally unfair that students are expected to pay such a high price for their education, especially in comparison with those generations who went before them. The burden of student debt means that many graduates are paying an effective marginal 41% tax rate on their income.

Universities should be funded sustainably and fairly, but the evidence is mounting that the current system is neither sustainable nor fair for students and graduates. We urge you to use your platform to support a new formulation that does not place the burden on students and graduates to fund their courses, but instead treats university education as a public benefit to the nation as a whole, funded fairly by those who can most afford to pay.

Yours sincerely,

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