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Nurses could be paying off student loans into their 60s

Move to lower repayment threshold seen as a blow to the profession, deterring many for whom paying off a loan for most of their working life is not feasible
Picture of a rubber stamp with the word LOAN on a chart listing numbers of years

Move to lower repayment threshold seen as a blow to the profession, deterring many for whom paying off a loan for most of their working life is not feasible

Nurses could end up paying off their student loans into their 60s under government plans to lower the repayment threshold to £25,000 – a move unions have labelled a ‘blow’ to the profession.

The government is also consulting on plans to increase the student loan repayment period from 30 to 40 years, meaning that some people could be left repaying the cost of a university course well into their retirement.

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said the move could deter people from pursuing careers in nursing and other lower paid graduate jobs.

Move to lower repayment threshold seen as a blow to the profession, deterring many for whom paying off a loan for most of their working life is not feasible

Picture of a rubber stamp with the word LOAN on a chart listing numbers of years
Picture: iStock

Nurses could end up paying off their student loans into their 60s under government plans to lower the repayment threshold to £25,000 – a move unions have labelled a ‘blow’ to the profession.

The government is also consulting on plans to increase the student loan repayment period from 30 to 40 years, meaning that some people could be left repaying the cost of a university course well into their retirement.

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said the move could deter people from pursuing careers in nursing and other lower paid graduate jobs.

‘This is a blow for anyone wishing to enter the nursing profession. Nursing is a highly skilled, rewarding and demanding career, but this news could appear a deterrent for many for whom paying off a student loan for the majority of their working life is just not feasible.’

Students most negatively affected include females and those from disadvantaged backgrounds

According to an impact analysis by the Department for Education, those likely to be negatively impacted by the changes are female students, as well as those ‘from disadvantaged backgrounds, or reside in the north, Midlands, south-west or Yorkshire and the Humber’.

Under the proposed changes, students starting courses from September 2023 will be asked to start paying off their debt when they earn an annual salary of £25,000. Currently the threshold before repayments need to be made is £27,295. This could see many graduates, including Band 5 NHS nurses on £25,655 per year, using 9% of their salary to repay their loan.

Figures from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) last month revealed a drop in the number of nursing applicants. Just 41,220 applications for undergraduate nursing courses were received by January this year, a 10% decrease from the 46,040 applications in January 2021.

Separate UCAS figures show that the number of 18-year-olds choosing to study nursing has increased by 38% since 2019, with 7,105 making it their first choice course in 2021, and 6,510 securing places.

Government must incentivise student nurses, not deter them, says RCN

But the RCN, which continues to campaign for the abolition of tuition fees for nurses, said the current university application figures do not make up for the drop in applicants following the nursing bursary being scrapped in 2016.

UCAS figures show 65,620 people applied for nursing courses in 2016, but the following year that figure fell to just 53,010.

Ms Marquis added: ‘With thousands of nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, the government needs to really think about how these plans will impact newly registered nursing staff and implement plans to incentivise student nurses, not deter them, as part of boosting the workforce.’


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