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Sabina Kadic-Mackenzie and her husband, Stuart, graduated from the same university, and both graduated in 2006. Stuart almost paid off her student loan, while Sabina was “a long way off” from paying off the debt. – after 14 years of Payments.
The reason? The couple have two children, and while loan repayments were put on hold during Sabina’s maternity leave, interest continued to accrue – reversing years of payments she had already made.
“A man and a woman with identical degrees, for which I will pay significantly more. Where is the fairness in that? ” she tweeted in a thread, after calling the Student Loans Company and finding out about their outstanding balance.
Sabina and Stuart, now based in Edinburgh, both studied journalism at the University of Stirling in Scotland. They were not entitled to the free fees because they were residing in England when they took out their loans. Sabina says her first reaction to finding her loan balance came as a shock.
“My husband is a feminist, so we’re both appalled that the system penalizes women in this way,” she told HuffPost UK. “At least we are raising two daughters who will one day face this problem unless it is fixed.”
Sabina thinks the system is “unfair”, especially considering that women tend to earn less than men and represent a significant proportion of the part-time workforce. “This means they earn less than their male counterparts and pay less on their loan even before the interest during maternity leave is taken into account,” she says.
This question has already been raised. Unison, a civil service union in the UK, told the 2019 National Women’s Conference: ‘The only fair way to deal with this problem (other than the complete repeal of student loans) is to freeze the loan. student and accrued interest for the young woman. goes on maternity leave, until she returns to work.
Sam Smethers, executive director of the women’s rights charity Fawcett, says Sabina’s experience is “yet another example” of a system designed by men for men, and a consequence of “the impact unequal care roles resulting in a life of income inequality for women ”.
A spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) agrees, telling HuffPost UK: Parental leave and paternity leave in the UK are so low.
“We cannot hope to change this when men are still more likely to be the highest earners in heterosexual couples and only receive statutory paternity benefit, leaving new parents with no real choice. “
WEP says a positive step would be for the government to suspend interest on student loans during parental leave, although “that would not be enough to really tackle the current situation that discriminates against women.”
Sabina agrees that a break from interest is needed, as is better education regarding student loans to begin with. “Since I shared my story on social media, I have been encouraged by the number of men who are equally outraged,” she says.
“The most common response, however, from both men and women is surprise that this is even the case. Young people take out these loans, which they will repay for most of their working life as adults, without really knowing how much it will cost them. ”
“The only fair way to solve this problem is to freeze the student loan and the accrued interest. “
– National Women’s Conference 2019
The most frustrating response, says Sabina, has come from people – “mostly men, it has to be said” – who argue that it doesn’t matter, because the debt will eventually be forgiven. “This completely misses the difference in consequences for those who take maternity leave after the birth of a child,” she adds.
When asked about maternity policies, a spokesperson for the Student Loans Company told HuffPost UK: “SLC is responsible for the administration of the student funding and reimbursement policy as directed and with the agreement of the UK government and decentralized administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. “
The issue has already been raised with the Scottish Parliament and a response is expected on September 7, 2020.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “We want everyone with talent and ambition to enter higher education, which is why student loans are available to all students, which regardless of their background, financial history or life stages.
“Unlike business loans, student loans come with important protections for borrowers because monthly payments are tied to income, not interest or the amount borrowed, and any outstanding balance is written off at the end of the loan term. Individuals pay their contribution to the system only when they earn above the relevant repayment threshold. “