Nursing graduates will be among those most affected by plans to lower the student loan repayment threshold, the RCN has said.
The government is consulting on proposals to lower the student loan repayment threshold to £25,000 and increase the repayment period from 30 to 40 years.
The changes mean many students in England will be paying for their degrees well into retirement. Graduates will also be asked to start paying off their debt sooner under government plans to cut the repayment threshold from £27,295 to £25,000 for new borrowers starting courses from September 2023 and will last an extra 10 years than currently. This could see many graduates paying for their degree into their 60s. The current starting salary for a Band 5 NHS nurse is £25,655 per year.
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‘This is a blow for anyone wishing to enter the nursing profession,’ said RCN Director for England Patricia Marquis.
‘Nursing is a highly-skilled, rewarding and demanding career, but this news could appear a deterrent for many for whom paying off a student loan for the majority of their working life is just not feasible.’
Last month a UCAS report revealed that the number of 18-year-olds choosing to study nursing has increased by 38% since 2019. However, the figures are less impressive, the RCN say, when compared to the number of nursing degree applicants in 2016, when the bursary was last available to financially support student nurses. The current boost in numbers doesn't make up for the significant drop off in applicants after this time.
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‘With thousands of nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, the government needs to really think about how these plans will impact newly registered nursing staff and implement plans to incentivise student nurses, not deter them, as part of boosting the workforce,’ added Ms Marquis.