The Treasury Committee has launched an inquiry into the student loan system and what it means for students financially, and your student exec officers have penned an open letter to the inquiry urging them reconsider the government's decision to abolish maintenance grants, as well as sharing concerns raised by you about rising interest rates and debts accrused from student loans.
Union Affairs Officer Jack Palmer said, "We believe that the current system of funding is disproportionately unfair to students from poorer backgrounds and that there is a clear link between the debt which students are being given and the effect this has on their wellbeing. We're using our open letter to bring this to the attention of the committee, and call on them to consider lowering interest rates on graduate debt and reintroduce maintenance grants for those who need them most."
You can read the open letter in full below:
To whom it may concern,
On behalf of students at Leeds University, the Student Exec at Leeds University Union would like to make a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry on Student Loans. This submission is the result of research and thoughtful reflections on student loans and its impact on the mental, economic, social and long-term wellbeing of students at Leeds University.
As elected representatives of students at Leeds University, we have a duty to ensure that students love their time at Leeds, which includes protecting and promoting their wellbeing. Therefore, we hope that our submission will be accepted and understood as both a shared position of the elected officers and a wider representation of the students at Leeds University.
Firstly, we want to share the serious concerns raised by students about rising interest and debts accrued from student loans, and their corresponding view that interest rate is simply too high. In a brief consultation we carried out with students around campus, 59 out of 126 students (46%) were not aware of the recent changes to interest rates, while 52 out of 126 students (41%) told us they were feeling anxious about money after the conversation.
While rising fees are the headline figure that students in further education are aware of when considering University, the extra costs added to their debt through interest on their loans is made insufficiently clear. While we believe it is the Government's duty to make sure students are better informed of the true costs of higher education, we are concerned about the effect this will have on students from poorer backgrounds who are thinking of applying. Therefore, we ask the Government to carefully review both the current interest rate and the wider student loan arrangement to ensure that higher education is affordable and accessible to all who wish to further their learning.
Furthermore, we also think the government should re-reconsider its decision to abolish maintenance grants and their subsequent replacement of them with further loans. The impact of this policy on students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds whose experiences of university life is already punctuated by anxiety and hardship, is already being felt on our campus. This November in our 'Express Yourself' survey in which 4,114 students took part, 'prices', 'wellbeing and counselling', 'fees' and 'mental health' were all in the top 10 issues they wanted the University of Leeds to address. This is because financial hardship can affect students' academic performance, their ability to join in extra-curricular activities with other students, and be detrimental to their wellbeing. It is our belief, consistent with the position of the National Union of Students, that the re-introduction of maintenance grants will reduce the economic cost of higher education to poorer students and improve the quality of their university experience.
Finally, we would like to express our gratitude for being given the opportunity to make a submission. We believe that the future of young people is at stake and that it is being threatened with high levels of debt at exorbitant interest rates. We hope the Treasury Committee will consider this contribution when discussing the implications, both financial and personal, the current loans system poses to current and future students.
The LUU Student Exec
Jack Palmer - Union Affairs Officer
Zaki Kaf Al-Ghazal - Education Officer
Chloë Sparks - Welfare Officer
Natasha Mutch-Vidal - Equality & Diversity Officer
Jessica Bassett - Activities Officer
George Bissett - Community Officer
If you want to find out more about what the changes to student financing mean for you, you can speaak to the Student Exec on level 2 of your union building, or speak to LUU Help and Support in the ground floor foyer area. LUU Help and Support are also available for any students who have concerns about their finances during their time in Leeds.