I had a giddy moment yesterday, quickly followed by a bit of slump as I realised I’d reached the end of an era. All wrapped up in a five minute phone call and after 11 years I had finally paid off my student loan of £4500. The last lingering monthly reminder of the three years I spent at Leeds Met (now renamed Leeds Beckett University). Back in the days when fees were £1175 a year and not the average £9000 they can be today. I was lucky to have the courses fees paid for by my parents, I lived at home and I had a weekend job but I still took out a loan for the first 2 years of my degree determined not to cost my parents anymore and explaining to my mum that books and travel was expensive…who was I kidding. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t go mad with the spending but I didn’t go without things I wanted and that’s probably why I struggle to budget or save now and why I’ve not been able to clear my credit card in 8 years.
I’ve spoken to uni friends since, some of which went on to further studies and we were all of the mind set that having a student loan to pay back was no big deal no matter how big the final amount had gotten. It was a way of life if you wanted to go to university. I never once thought about how long it would take me to pay back. Being an income contingent loan, repayments were taken out of my wage before it reached me so I’ve never had to factor it in to my lifestyle and I don’t feel like I’ve missed the £34 one month, followed by £72 the next and so on because I never had the money in the first place. It was a line on my pay slip I rarely noticed and paled into insignificance when compared to the tax and national insurance I pay.
It got me thinking about the current situation and whether I would have given it so little thought had the costs of university been what they are today. Would I have been so blasé if the debt had stood at nearer £30000 or even more if I’d have taken the plunge and moved away. Don’t get me wrong had I moved away, taken the full amounts available to borrow, paid my own course fees and had to find money for rent and living I could have been looking at debts of £15000+ and this had been the contributing factor when I decided at the 11th hour to not follow my then best friend and boyfriend to Preston but stay at home. I hadn’t wanted to put that pressure on my family who had said they would pay as much as possible towards my studies. I remember meeting a friend when they returned to Yorkshire to do their Masters the year after we graduated and joking about how much debt he would end up being in when he had finished. Running close to £25000 he also admitted he wasn’t sure he would ever pay it all back based on his ideal job abroad in aid work not being so well paid. I asked if that worried him and whether it had put him off returning to uni and he didn’t hesitate when he said no. It was what he wanted to do and what he needed for work. That same friend is doing the job he always wanted now and I don’t think he has ever looked back. I’ve no idea how much of the debt he still has.
I spent last night reminiscing about the 8 hours a week in lectures and countless hours in the library. About how proud my family were when I graduated with a 2:1 in Sociology and saw me in my cap and gown. But although I would love to go back, do more studying and be a student again I feel I’ve had my time and now have other commitments. Plus with only 16 years before Miss G may want to go, I better start saving the £73 extra I’ll now get in my wage each month!