@AndyC_MK84 I sympathise that you may not want to spend one of the last nights of the year looking up stats on foreign loan system, but I think it’s fair to say that the UK and US systems are fairly different beasts.
I think it’s also worth moving away from terminological extremes such as ‘broken’. While I like labelling things as ‘broken’ as much as the next man, there’s a risk of implying that things could not be worse. They could. But they could – and should – also be much better.
The points you’ve raised are indeed valid, but they don’t stop there. One of the greatest differences is in terms of the actual loan repayment system. The US is obviously a big country, and there may be more variation that I’m taking into account, but to simplify things let’s compare my loan repayment to my American friend’s.
If I’m unemployed, I don’t have to pay back. If I’m earning under a certain threshold, I don’t have to pay back. If I’m earning over it, I only pay on a percentage of the money over that threshold. If I die, I – nor anyone else in my family – has to pay it back. If I reach a certain age, it gets written off. It’s basically a tax on my income, and only over a certain amount, assuring that even if I don’t get a high paying job, that fact I went to university won’t absolutely cripple me for all time.
My American friend on the other hand has to pay almost half her salary each month (and she’s not on a particularly low salary). Even if she didn’t have a job, she’d still have to fork out the money. It never gets written off. If she dies, it gets passed onto a family member, essentially crippling them instead. It just goes and and goes and goes, and puts serious limits on what jobs she can take because she literally can’t afford to work for under a certain wage. It’s… quite a piece of work.
Now, I have other American friends who have had no problem with student loans. Because their parents work in high paying positions and made ‘paying for their kids college fees’ a central financial concern as soon as (or even more) the kid was born. And no doubt some would say, “if you’re not prepared to pay for your kid’s education you shouldn’t be having kids at all”. But it’s such an alien mode of thought for me.
Like you said, there are cultural issues at the heart of this, as with all this. But I count my blessings that I got educated in the UK and not the US whenever this sort of topic comes up. Or rather, I suppose I should say I’m glad I’ve got UK loans. I don’t think the UK system is perfect by any means (and there’s a lot of room for manoeuvre between ‘completely free’ and ‘£9000+ p/y), but my god is it preferable to what the those in the US have to deal with.