A Freedom of Information Act data request has revealed that more than 5,000 students over the age of 50 have taken advantage of the student loan scheme backed by the government, in which many could end up walking away with a free education.
Many of the 5,030 over-50s student loan claimants, (a figure which has grown by over 11.5% in the last year alone), are likely to be benefiting from a loop-hole in the rules around repayment of the student loans; under the government-backed scheme, students do not have to commence repayment of their loans until they earn more than £21,000 per annum. However, given that the average income for pensioners is only £11,000, and that loans are written off after 30 years or when a student dies, many of these senior students will never meet the criteria for repayment.
Therefore, the rules that were aimed at bringing an end to the free education baby-boomer-era will fail to impact the generation that benefited from the old rules. Instead of assisting today's students, the current structure further burdens future taxpayers, who already face increased tuition fees in an environment of elevated youth unemployment.
Students can claim up to £9,000 to cover tuition fees and up to £4,418 for maintenance, although the maintenance loan is only available to students aged less than 60.
Although the SLC did not supply financial costs, it means over-50s may have claimed up to £45m in fee loans and £22m in maintenance loans, although the total is likely to be lower.