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Nursing students: higher loan repayments will deter recruits – report

Changes to scheme will see repayments jump by up to 142% for female students starting next year, researchers claim, which the RCN slams as ‘another attack on nurses’ pay’

Changes to scheme will see repayments jump by up to 142% for female students starting next year, researchers claim, which the RCN slams as ‘another attack on nurses’ pay’

‘Deeply regressive’ changes to student loan repayments in England will deter more nursing students from graduating, with female nurses disproportionately affected when they start working, new research suggests.

Analysis by consultancy London Economics , commissioned by the RCN, claims that loan repayments for female graduates starting their courses next year are expected to increase by around 142%.

This is almost double that of their male counterparts at 72%, who stay in employment longer and have higher annual earnings on average, the report states.

Changes to scheme will see repayments jump by up to 142% for female students starting next year, researchers claim, which the RCN slams as ‘another attack on nurses’ pay’

Illustration of student in shadow of debt
Picture: iStock

‘Deeply regressive’ changes to student loan repayments in England will deter more nursing students from graduating, with female nurses disproportionately affected when they start working, new research suggests.

Analysis by consultancy London Economics, commissioned by the RCN, claims that loan repayments for female graduates starting their courses next year are expected to increase by around 142%.

This is almost double that of their male counterparts at 72%, who stay in employment longer and have higher annual earnings on average, the report states.

The steep rises are a result of accruing interest over what is likely to be a ‘large, unpaid balance’ over a longer loan repayment time, the researchers explained.

Pay threshold to begin paying back loan is lowered

In a major government shake-up of higher education, university graduates starting their courses from September 2023 will be expected to pay back their loans over 40 years instead of 30, and begin repaying them once they start earning £25,000 instead of the current threshold of £27,295.

This could see band 5 nurses who start on £27,055 per year using 8.5% of their salary to repay their loan.

Female student worried about a loan bill
Picture: iStock

Loan repayment changes will damage recruitment, says union

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen slammed the changes as ‘another attack on nurses’ pay’ and criticised the lack of a fully funded workforce plan.

‘After a decade of real-terms pay cuts, this will exacerbate issues we have recruiting people to our safety-critical profession,’ she added.

How much nursing graduates will have to repay

Women: up from £10,700 to £26,000 – a 142% rise

Men: up from £24,000 to £42,200 – a 72% rise

Source: RCN England workforce policy report

The report deems the higher education reforms to be ‘deeply regressive’, and claims it will disproportionately benefit higher earners who will be able to pay off their loans quicker.

‘The lowest earners never finish paying an ever-increasing bill for their higher education, while higher earners pay back a smaller bill, faster,’ it states.

Report calls for ‘loan forgiveness scheme’

The London Economics analysis also warns there will be 2,000 fewer nursing students graduating in 2025 than in 2024, and says the changes would have a ‘detrimental impact’ on the recruitment and retention of nursing students.

The report calls for nursing students to be exempt from student loan changes, and urges the introduction of a loan forgiveness scheme that would see nurses working in public sector services for 10 years or more having their entire outstanding loan balance written off.

Nursing Standard analysis earlier this year found a third of students were leaving their courses in 2021.


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