Poorest students will finish university with £57,000 debt, says IFS

Students from the poorest 40% of families entering university in England for the first time this September will emerge with an average debt of around £57,000, according to a new analysis by a leading economic thinktank.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies said the abolition of the last maintenance grants in 2015 had disproportionately affected the poorest, while students from the richest 30% of households would run up lower average borrowings of £43,000.

Jack Britton, one of the IFS report’s authors, said that changes in recent years have been “heavily focused on further reducing the cost to central government” and that it had made the system more unequal.

“Replacing maintenance grants with loans reduces the government deficit but results in students from low-income families graduating with the highest debt levels,” he added.

The economic thinktank’s conclusion immediately prompted a sharp political exchange between the main parties and elite universities over the fairness of – and a hint from the minister responsible that amid soaring debts the system could be reviewed again.


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