Student finance: in real life

We asked Rich, a University of Manchester graduate who now works as the Assistant Commercial Manager for Stagecoach Bus, for his thoughts on student finance before, during, and after university.

How did you feel about money, specifically student finance, before you got to university?

I was in the first year of the new fees system and went to a school in Wales, so it was difficult to work out what the rules were and what was going to happen to me. I knew that I wanted to go to uni, so I just had to make sure that I understood how the system would work. The key thing was that I didn’t need to pay anything upfront and finance would be available regardless of which course or uni I went to, with money for fees as well as for living costs.

Has your opinion on student finance changed since then?

By the time I arrived at uni, I knew how the system worked and that I would only repay my finance if I was working and earning enough. I think this is a key part of the system and something that people often don’t think enough about. It’s not a loan in the way that we usually think about them. My preference would have been not to pay any fees,  but at least I know I’m only paying when I am earning enough, just like tax or National Insurance.

Now you’re a graduate, I wondered how student debt feels for you? Is it a burden, or do you not really notice it?

I don’t think anyone wants to feel like they’ve got a big debt hanging over them but that isn’t really how my student loan feels. I basically don’t have to think about it. I repay my student loan straight out of my payslip and that happened automatically when I started working – your loan is connected to your National Insurance number and paid just like income tax. The amount that I repay doesn’t make a difference to my life and, as it happens before you’ve seen it, you don’t notice it’s gone. When I first started working I wasn’t earning enough to repay my loan and that meant I didn’t need to. It was good that I could take a job I was interested in, which felt right for my career, rather than worrying about how much I was going to be paid because of a student loan.

Do you think university was a good investment?

Yes absolutely, I enjoyed living in Manchester and learning about something I was interested in. It brought a huge amount of opportunity and helped me get to the job I’m doing now. So it was a long term benefit, but really I just enjoyed being a student. Paying a small amount each month now that I’m earning enough made it well worth it.