UK could ban students from college loans if they fail math and English

Under new proposals, the U.K. government could deny students college loans if they fail high school exams.

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U.K. high school students who fail math and English exams could be barred from taking out college loans under proposals expected to be announced by the British government on Thursday.

The U.K. government is expected to propose “minimum eligibility requirements to ensure students aren’t being pushed into higher education before they are ready, and student number controls, so that poor-quality, low-cost courses aren’t incentivised to grow uncontrollably,” according to a statement from the Department for Education.  

The proposals come in the wake of a review into the funding of higher education funding in the U.K.

The minimum entry requirements could block U.K. students from getting a state-funded college loan if they fail to get at least a Level 4, the equivalent of a ‘C’ grade, in math and English in their high school exams, known as GCSEs.

An alternative minimum entry requirement is also due to be proposed only giving students access to university loans if they gain at least two ‘E’ grades in their pre-college exams — known as A-Levels — with some exemptions, such as for mature students.  

In the U.K., college loans are state-funded, with repayments typically coming straight out of graduates’ paychecks after they earn above a certain amount.

College students who started a course before the start of Sept. 2012, when tuition fees cost up to £3,465 ($4,709) per year, start paying back loans once they earn above £19,895 a year. Students who started a course after that point, once fees were hiked up to £9,000, start repaying loans once they earn more than £27,295 a year.

Student loans in the U.K. are written off 25-30 years after you’re first due to start repaying them. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around four-fifths of students will likely never fully pay back their loans.

College tuition across most of the U.K. stands at £9,250 per year for courses starting in 2022 to 2023.

Government data showed that in 2021 around 22% of U.K. students failed to get a Grade 4 in math, while nearly 19% didn’t gain a pass grade in English.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of the organization Universities UK, said the U.K. government should “expand opportunity, not constrain it.”

While Jarvis acknowledged that the full details of the proposals were yet to be released, he said Universities UK opposed measures that “turn the clock back on progress made by universities to get more people from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education and better jobs.”

Data from the U.K.’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service last week showed that 28% of young people from the country’s most disadvantaged areas had applied to college this year, up from nearly 18% in 2013.

Sophie Tremblay

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