Minister urges over-60s to take student loans

A Government minister is urging the over sixties to take out student loans and return to university to re-train.

Conservative minister David Willetts says the age limit for taking student loans has been lifted. In fact, there is no age limit on fee loans. But with many fees costing £25,000 plus for three years, how many older people will think this a good move?

Take on more debt

It clearly isn't if you will struggle to pay the money back. Higher education minister Willetts is right when saying education should not be "reserved for young people". But he thinks re-training for older people will help them compete with younger people, fresh from university.

Many pensioners and the over-sixties are already struggling with rising food and energy bills; many will take the view that more debt is simply not realistic.

There's also a cultural issue. Many older people do return to university (the Open University has being doing an excellent job educating older students for decades, at modest cost). But they do this often as a recreational activity, not to beat off those in their mid twenties, fresh from college, in a new career further down the line.

Thumbs up?

Saga though welcomed the move. "In a recent Saga survey of 8,400 over 50s, a third said they had gone on a course to learn new skills in the last five years and more than a third said they wanted to learn new skills to help them in the workplace."

It adds: "Many older people missed out on the expansion of higher education and the life-changing opportunities it can bring. So there should be a huge thumbs up from the Saga generations to this idea."

The statistics don't look so encouraging. The Guardian claims that of the total 552,240 undergraduates studying in Britain last year, just 1,940 were older than 60 - 0.35% of the total.

And as many graduates will tell you, getting a degree does not guarantee a job, let alone a good one.

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