NAO warns government needs tighter control over student loans

Friday, 29 November 2013 08:53

The National Audit Office (NAO) has suggested that the UK government is not doing enough to get people to repay their student loans. 

The NAO says that because of the increase in university tuition fees, student debts are higher and there needs to be tighter control on student debt repayments.

According to the NAO, £46 billion in loans is still outstanding, and this is estimated to rise to £200 billion over the next 30 years, with half of students not expected to earn enough to repay all their loan. Furthermore, there is around £5 billion owed by 368,000 ex-students, with the government not knowing exactly their whereabouts.

If anything, the NAO states that there is a distinct lack of employment information about former students. For example, some people may have moved overseas or are unemployed. In regards to the former, there were 14,000 graduates living overseas in March 2013, according to the report, being behind on payments of £100 million.

The NAO says the government is overestimating the amount of money it will get back each year in student loan repayments and is not securing value for taxpayers.

The situation could become more acute as the NAO estimates that the number of borrowers will more than double to 6.5 million people over the next 30 years.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: "It is essential that government collects every pound it can of the debt that should be collected."

The rising figures are hardly surprising considering that the recent increase in tuition fees in England has forced students to take on higher amounts of debt. The NAO estimates that by 2040, the number of borrowers will have doubled to 6.5 million.

The government expected that the level of debt to be written off would be 28 per cent in 2010, but this figure has now risen to 35 per cent. Labour's university spokesman Liam Byrne added: "We may be at the point where so many students loans are being written off, that the government's new student finance system is actually more expensive than the old arrangements, even though the government is asking students for three times as much money."

This report comes just a week after the government announced it was going to sell part of the student loan book to a private firm.

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