Uni: The wild west of the financial world?
Would you buy a car, start a business or buy a house costing £60,000 without doing any research? Students are being held to ransom by a lack of data, consumer protection and transparency regarding their loans. It is time that all student loan providers, whether private or public, are regulated by the FCA. Student’s need strong regulatory protection for the vast financial commitment they take on.
Student debt is terrifying but the main horror is that it is unregulated. As a student, you can’t complain, you have no FCA protection and you can do nothing to hold anyone to account. All this despite University being the second biggest investment you will ever make after your home.
We are taught in this data fuelled, socially connected, frenetic world that you need to have a tight grip on your life and your finances. Technology has risen to this challenge. Comparison websites, apps and 24 hour news and advice ensure we are informed every minute of every day. Investors check their shares on Christmas Day and shoppers research for hours just to save a penny. We are obsessive and the help and consumer protection we need is there.
Except when it comes to University finances. Student debt is one of the largest loans we will ever take, second only to buying a home. As Which? points out, the UK needs “better information for prospective students, improved complaints processes and a strong regulator that enforces high standards across the sector.”
At the moment, students are forced to go into debt blind, with white knuckled parents standing by. They have few hard facts to base their Uni choice on and they have no form of redress if they feel they didn’t get value for money.
England is now in the uncharted territory of students graduating with “mega debt”. We must build mechanisms to protect their rights across the private and public loan sector. Parliament needs to provide this regulation and consumer protection. And fast.