student loans

How to Avoid Paying Back Your Student Loan

From waiting until your loan expires to faking your own death, here are some tips on how to wriggle off the uni debt hook.
27 March 2020, 9:15am
Do I Have to Pay Back My Student Loan?

Earlier this month, VICE's Ryan Bassil inspired hundreds of loafers, chancers, skint dons and cheapskates all across the country to claim back money from the Student Loans Company. If you haven't tried yet, it's definitely worth a pop – someone we spoke to raised their balance by £821.

But what if you want to take things further, and pay back none of your student loan whatsoever? What if – in an ideal world – the SLC would have to prise the money from your cold, dead hands? That's a different matter entirely. To begin with, let’s dispel the notion that you’re under any moral obligation to pay back your student loans. If your parents went to uni, they didn’t have to pay tuition fees, so why should you? It’s just bad luck that Nick Clegg, that silver-tongued Judas, did your generation so dirty.

But, sadly, you do have a legal obligation. It doesn’t matter that you were 18 years old when you took out your loan, after applying for a course you weren’t really arsed about because it felt like the path of least resistance. "Youthful stupidity" is not a valid get-out clause in English contract law. According to the National Student Money Service 2018, half of students don’t understand their loan arrangement, while as many as 70 percent don’t know the interest rate.

Any economic contract entered into when you’re a teenager should be null and void. But the world we live in doesn’t suffer fools gladly, nor does it offer many second chances. You, a fucking idiot 18-year-old, were allowed to get yourself into £40k worth of debt. Somehow that actually happened. Now you have to do the decent thing, accept responsibility, and pay it back… or do you? Here are some tricks and schemes that could help you worm your way off the hook.

Don’t Earn Any Money Until Your 50th Birthday

Depressingly, this is the most realistic option. But it’s not all bad. If you started university after 2012, you don’t need to start paying off your loan till you’re earning £25,725 a year, which is... quite a lot? (If you were on the old rate, it’s £18,935 – which is admittedly not a princely salary.) To avoid repaying your loan, you simply have to avoid applying for any jobs that will pay you a penny higher than this, refuse all promotions, and spend your entire life subsisting on a modest yet hardly impoverishing income.

£25k a year genuinely isn’t bad. It’s an amount that would allow you to live in a flat-share the right side of mediocre (particularly if you don’t live in London), take drugs as frequently as is sensible, afford the most expensive streetwear brands on offer in your local charity shop, and even go on the occasional European city break – as long as it’s somewhere Ryanair fly to. What I’m describing is the sweet spot, la dolce vita. Why would you even want to earn more money than that?

Please forgive my extravagant boasting but: I’ve never paid off a penny of my student loan. How have I achieved this? What devilish scheme did I enact? It’s simple: I’ve never earned enough money. So I win :). In fact, I’m tempted to stay at this level of genteel, middle-class poverty forever – at grave personal cost to myself and my own quality of life – just to deny the Student Loans Company the satisfaction of getting a single penny of my hard-earned cash.

Also, it’s worth remembering that your loan will be written off 30 years after you graduate. Why not work in a pub until you turn 50 and then go for that job at Goldman Sachs?

Move to a Different Country

This, the classic scheme, worked for me for a while. When I moved to a different country for two years, I simply didn’t bother to inform the Student Loans Company (on the basis that how I choose to live my life is none of their concern). They did send a series of increasingly terse letters to my mum’s house, which unsettled me from afar, but, crucially, they failed to extradite me.

Although New Zealand has started arresting student loan defaulters at the border, this policy has yet to be introduced in the UK. This means that there’s no good reason not to drop everything, run away to somewhere with cheap rent and good weather (Athens is nice), and live out the rest of your days as a fugitive. And the best part is: if you ever need to nip back home for the funeral of a beloved family member, you’re not going to get hauled into a van the moment you step on British soil. It’s hard to see a downside to this plan… other than it’s illegal, of course.

Fake Your Own Death

This is a little extreme. Rather than doing this, I would recommend just taking the L and paying your due. But if you are so committed to not paying that people might say you've been 'radicalised' by Ryan Bassil's article, it’s worth checking out a book called How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found (which inspired a Radiohead song of the same name, as well as featuring in Marlon James’s Booker Prize-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings). It contains some handy tips for eluding capture, creating fake IDs and even staging your own suicide. But, to be honest, I’m not sure the Student Loans Company really care all that much, bro. This option might be overkill.

Bide Your Time

Maybe the best thing to do is hold out for a left-wing politician to cancel the debt. Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, told VICE, “I don't think it's inconceivable that, in the future, a populist politician could come along and say, ‘We'll do something to your student loans.’ It would feel like a tax cut.” Although Jeremy Corbyn turned out not to be the student loans saviour many of us hoped, the more members of our over-educated, underpaid generation that ascend to power, the more likely it is that such a policy would be enacted.

However you decide to evade paying your student loans, good luck – and try to avoid getting imprisoned for fraud.

@jamesdgreig