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Britain is planning to bar high school students who fail math and English exams from taking out college loans under a set of government proposals that ignited criticism from education advocates and educators, CNBC reported.

The Department of Education said the proposals would block students from getting a state-funded college loan if they fail to get at least a Level 4 – the equivalent of a ‘C’ grade in the US – on their high-school exams, known as GCSEs. Other requirements require decent grades on their pre-college exams – also known as A-Levels.

In 2021, around 22 percent of students failed to get a Level 4 in math, while roughly 19 percent failed to pass English, according to the government.

Meanwhile, officials said they are extending the student loan repayment term to 40 years for students as of September 2023. Previously, loans were written off 25-30 years, CNBC reported separately.

In the UK, student loans are state-funded and repayments are taken straight out of graduates’ paychecks after they earn above a certain amount.

The proposed changes came following a review of the funding of higher education. The Department of Education said that outstanding loans reached more than $215 billion a year ago, and could reach more than half a trillion dollars in 20 years.

Even so, critics warned that the reforms put an “unprecedented fiscal squeeze on future graduates,” noting that many students would end up paying loans into their sixties.

Others admonished the government for turning “the clock back on progress made by universities to get more people from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education and better jobs.”

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