Americans hear a lot about their student debt — from Sallie Mae, from their parents, from the Democratic presidential candidates. But maybe university graduates in the United Kingdom should be listening, too. A report released this week by Sutton Trust, an education charity based in London, found that British youth had the highest student debt levels of all the major countries that speak English, the Independent reported.
The report found the average debt at graduation totaled £44,500, or about $65,000, in England. For comparison, borrowers in the United States class of 2014 graduated with an average of $28,950 in loans, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.
“These debt levels are by far the highest in the English-speaking world and are more than double average debt levels at universities in the United States, where students study for four-year programs, rather than three," trust chairman Peter Lampl told BBC News. “They impact on [sic] the ability of graduates to go to graduate schools, to afford a mortgage, the timing of having children and other major life decisions.”
Elsewhere in the U.K., Wales and Northern Ireland residents left school about £19,000, or $28,000, in the hole. Scotland graduates were in the best position, with an average debt level of about £9,000, or about $13,000.
The report suggested the difference in debt levels could be attributed to the fact that American schools often give their students more financial aid than British ones do.
Overall, however, the debt issue was not a new one. Thousands of students in London protested for free education last November, holding a march in the streets and throwing smoke bombs at police officers. A dozen people were arrested during the rally, according to BBC News.
But the U.K. government insisted that its student funding system was fair. "More people than ever before are now able to benefit from higher education, and the application rate for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is at a record level," a spokesman from the department for business, innovation and skills told the Huffington Post.
The report did point out one big difference between post-university debt in England and the United States: American students typically owe private companies money after graduation, while in the U.K., the state holds most of the debt. The latter setup makes repayment easier, according to the report.