Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/328/9288
A living grant not tuition fees
GOVERNMENT MINISTERS recently paid a company £180,000 to bombard potential undergraduates with text messages boosting their hated top-up fees policy.
It's obviously not having the effect they wanted! A Guardian survey (16 December) shows that 59% of voters oppose top-up fees, 40% of them opposing them strongly.
Blair claims that the public will support fees once they're understood, but most people in this survey understand what the fees meant and the difference between them, upfront tuition fees and a graduate tax.
Even before the fees come in, universities admit that the percentage of young entrants to first degree courses from skilled manual, semi-skilled and unskilled backgrounds only went up marginally (from 25.4% to 25.8%) this year.
Blair claims his policies aim to increase the number of students from working-class backgrounds, but how does the prospect of higher fees and higher debts do that?
Women students will also suffer. A new report says that a typical woman graduate who goes on to have two children will take an average 20 years to pay off her debt if top-up fees come in.
Michael Wainwright, of Brunel University Socialist Students Society explains how these debts build up.
"Most students have to work, usually in the retail industry where the pay is poor and the conditions are dire.
"Working off thousands of pounds worth of debt is a long and arduous task. This has clearly led to an increase in problems such as stress-related illnesses."
In Coventry, Socialist Party councillors Karen McKay, Rob Windsor and Dave Nellist think the issue is so important that they are press: This motion was won - see report]
The motion says:
"This council opposes the government's plan to introduce top-up fees for students in Higher Education and calls on the city's three local MPs to oppose the plan in Parliament, believing that the combination of tuition fees and student loans will increasingly prove to be a barrier to less well-off applicants, and mean that young people will start their adult lives with crippling levels of debt."
Michael points out that unless a coherent, fighting campaign like this is built, New Labour will be able to ignore opposition.
"Unfortunately the leadership of the National Union of Students (NUS) supports New Labour and has done little or nothing to build such a campaign to defend our higher education.
"Socialist Students Societies across the country are playing a very important role in the NUS by helping to develop a mass campaign of non-payment of tuition fees. Students are beginning to see the need for such a campaign.
"What's more, students increasingly see that we can only permanently win an alternative to rising debt and low pay by fighting not just New Labour but also their system, capitalism that is driven by profit and not by human need."
In The Socialist 20 December 2003: