Under a new law, you will only start to pay your loans back when your wages go above a certain level, so it often falls to the back of the mind when you first graduate. However, not keeping up with your loan payments when you’re supposed to can end up causing you some serious money issues
In this article we’ll examine student loans, running through what they are, when you begin to make student loan repayments, and where to find support if you’re struggling with your student loan balance.
What is a student loan?
A student loan can mean the difference between being able to go to university or college, and not being able to go at all. For people from certain financial and social backgrounds, who may think “university or college isn’t for us”, It helps people pay for an education they might otherwise struggle to afford.
Loans can help the average student finance:
- Tuition fees (the price of the course itself)
- Living costs (maintenance grants help pay for student accommodation and the cost of travel)
- Other costs (from books to field trips to study equipment like laptops)
While taking a loan reduces financial pressure on students while they’re in full-time education, it doesn’t represent ‘free’ money. When student life is over and you head out into the world of work, it’s important to understand how you’ll pay back what you owe.
How do student loans work?
The student loan system is overseen by the Government, and is set up so you only start to pay your student loan back when your wages go above a certain level (often referred to as a repayment ‘threshold’).
Student loan repayments are taken from your salary automatically, via the tax system. When you receive your pay slip, you will notice a deduction from the Student Loan Company (SLC) alongside your National Insurance, pension, and any other deductions.
In theory, that means the money you owe on your student loan should never hit your bank account.
When do I need to make payments to my student loan?
Depending on the type of loan you have, you won’t have to make any payments to your student loan until you’re paid more than the threshold for your student loan plan. At that point, it varies:
Plan One student loan
You’ll start paying this back as soon as you reach the repayment threshold of earning more than £19,390 in a year.
Plan Two student loan
Your repayments will start as soon as you hit the repayment threshold by earning in excess of £26,575 in a year.
When you first graduate, it’s easy to forget about student debts if you’re on a lower income. However, not keeping up with your loan repayments when you’re supposed to can end up causing you some serious money issues.
How much are student loan repayments?
People find it complicated to keep track of the various rules regarding repaying your student loan. How much you repay towards your student debt changes depending on how much you earn and which student loan plan you’re on.
Each different plan has a threshold for your weekly or monthly income. As a general rule of thumb, your contribution will be:
- 9% of the amount you earn over the threshold for plans 1, 2 and 4
- 6% of the amount you earn over the threshold for the Postgraduate Loan
- If your income is under the threshold, your won’t make a contribution
Interest starts being added to your loan from when you get your first payment. Normally payments will come straight from your wage through the PAYE system or by self-assessment if you’re self-employed.
Payments will come off after your tax and National Insurance is paid, so if you’re not expecting it, this can come as a surprising extra expense on your payslip.
If your yearly wages are below the level mentioned above, but your weekly or monthly wages push you above it every so often, you may find an occasional payment to your loan on your wage slip.
When do I stop paying money towards student loans?
Student loans aren’t ‘forgiven’ in the UK the way they are in the US, but they can be written off eventually, meaning your remaining debts will be wiped and you won’t have to continue making contributions. When this happens depends on what payment plan you’re on, and where you are in the UK.
Plan 1 student loan
If you studied pre-2006/07, your loan will be written off when you’re 65, or 30 years after the April you were first due to repay. If you studied post-2007/08, your loan will be written off 30 years after the April you were first due to repay.
England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
If you studied pre-2006/07 or earlier, your loan will be written off when you’re 65, or 30 years after the April you were first due to repay. If you studied post-2007/08, your loan will be written off once a 30-year period has elapsed since the April you were first due to repay.
Plan 2 student loan
In all areas of the UK, including Scotland, all Plan 2 student debts are written off after a 30 year period, on the anniversary of the first April you were due to repay.
What happens if I miss student loan repayments?
If you don’t keep up with your student loan payments, it can cause serious money problems.
When taking out a student loan, you have agreed, by law, to pay it back to the Student Loans Company. They have the right to accelerate your debt, which means they can get a court order for any outstanding debt to be paid in one go, including interest.
This often causes the balance to become completely unaffordable. Since the payments are taken straight from your wages, the Student Loans Company don’t need to rely on debt collectors, but taking money from you automatically can leave you short for your other bills.
Do student loans affect your credit rating?
Because student loan repayments are deducted from your wages in much the same way as taxes, repayments do not appear on your credit score the same way other loan repayments (like credit cards) might. That means payments towards student loans cannot impacted your credit score.
If you miss student loan repayments, however, you’re credit score could be negatively affected. If you fail to make your repayments on time, or fall behind on your student debt for any reason, the delinquency on those payments will remain on your file for a period of seven years.
As soon as the delinquency shows up on your credit report, it will be visible to any future lender. That may mean you struggle to access credit in the future, or need extra help in order to do so.
How can I keep on top of my student debt?
It can be hard to keep track of your payments to your student loans, and they can be a long-term burden on people financially, given they take so long to pay off – that’s part of the reason President Biden has given air time to the idea of a wholesale writing off of student debt in the US. However, there are things you can do to make sure you stay on top of them.
Firstly, it’s important to check that the correct amount is being taken via PAYE. If you think you are overpaying, contact your payroll department and the Student Loans Company to have this reviewed.
If you’re self-employed, use an online calculator to work out roughly what you’ll owe based on what you think you’ll earn and put this amount aside. Doing this as soon as possible will give you more time to save up
You can also work with an accountant who will help you with your tax return before it’s filed. This can help ensure that you’re paying the right amount.
Where can I get debt advice on student loans?
While student loan debt is common, and repayment won’t kick in until you reach the salary threshold, student loans take such a long time to pay back that they can become a financial burden.
If you’re worried about your student loan debts, need guidance on the best way to repay it, or are falling behind with payments and are considering debt relief, Creditfix can help.
We help people deal with debt, and our debt advisers are on hand to help you put your money worries behind you. For free debt advice and support, get in touch today – you can call us on 0800 0431 431, or our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org