‘I’m 22, I don’t gamble and I’m not a huge shopper – but I already owe £53k’

A 22-year-old woman who doesn’t ‘frivolously’ shop or have gambling debts has been left stunned to find she owes more than £53,000.

Bronte Howard says her "massive" debt is already more than the mortgage her grandparents took out on their three-bedroom home in the 1970s.

And the amount will continue to rise each year due to interest.

The Wales Online reporter discovered she owes £53,409.20 after checking her student loan statement for the first time this week.

She says MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis told her to "rip up" the statement, saying it’s "totally irrelevant" and "shouldn’t be sent".

But she questions whether it is as simple as that.

Below, Bronte writes of her shock and the advice she has been given.

Her words first appeared on Wales Online .

"I’m 22 years old and I already have a massive debt hanging over me. It’s more than the mortgage my grandparents took out when they bought their three-bed house back in the 70s.

"I’m not a frivolous shopper, I don’t have gambling debts and it isn’t from buying property. It’s the price I – and millions of others – have paid to continue studying since tuition fees were first introduced in 1998.

"For those of you who were lucky enough to be able to borrow from Student Finance Wales (which I believe has a slightly better system where the Welsh Government contributes towards tuition fees, meaning students only pay £3,000 a year) or were able to pay the fees without needing to take out loans, I’ll briefly explain how the English system worked when I took out my loans in 2013 and 2016.

"I paid £9,000 a year to study a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. This cost me £27,000, which I borrowed. I was also given money in the form of loans (which I have to pay back), grants and bursaries to cover things like rent, food and books. I think in total I had around £8,000 a year to spend.

"Some students studying now are even worse off after the Government scrapped grants and introduced a second loan for students whose parents are on a low income.

"But after added interest, which started being added to the already hefty bill in April 2017, I currently owe £42,711.43 for my undergraduate degree – a lot more than my Welsh friends.

"I then decided to do a master’s degree in journalism at Cardiff University so I took out a £10,000 from Student Finance England and it barely covered my tuition fees. So I actually ended up with overdraft debt and had to rely on my parents (thanks mum and dad) and savings.

"At the time, Student Finance Wales didn’t offer a postgraduate loan, so in a way, I was better off than some of my coursemates. (Although now Welsh postgraduate students are entitled to borrow up to £13,000).

"I start to pay this back when I earn £25,000 and what I pay is based on how much I earn, not how much I borrowed.

"But after four years of university, I now have a debt that, unless I win the lottery, I doubt I will ever fully pay back.

"I didn’t really think about how much I owed and I didn’t know the exact figure until a few days ago when I checked my statement online.

"I’d almost forgotten that I owed money because it’s almost an invisible debt.

"I thought it would be somewhere in the region of £40,000 because naively, I didn’t really understand interest rates when I took out the loan at 18.

"It’s actually £53,409.20 and will continue to go up each year when interest is added.

"The interest rate for my postgraduate loan has also been increased to 6.1%, which is higher than the interest rate for a lot of mortgages and is probably going to go up again.

"So, after seeing the huge figure I asked finance expert and MoneySavingExpert’s Martin what I should do. After all, it’s a huge amount of money but it doesn’t seem like anybody really cares.

"He said: ‘Rip up your statement – it’s totally irrelevant – and shouldn’t be sent. Just consider that you’ll pay 9% extra tax if you earn above £25,000. Why on earth would you try and pay it off?”

"When I eventually start paying the debt, I’ll pay 9% of whatever I earn above £25,000 until the bill is paid, or wiped clean.

"For example, if I earn £35,000 I will pay an extra £900 in tax every year – or £72 a month – on top of the tax and national insurance payments everyone who doesn’t have a student loan would pay.

"I will be paying that for another 29 years – that’s until 2047.

"Martin also recommends in an article that if I, or any other students in my position, come into money and have some spare we shouldn’t pay it off because it probably won’t affect how much I pay monthly.

"The debt won’t even go on my credit report, so unless anything changes I don’t need to worry.

"And, like 83% of other graduates with English student loans, I probably won’t clear the debt anyway."

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