Student loans threat: Action needed on student debt mountain

Claire Laker-Mansfield

‘Keep calm about university fees’ was the slogan of a government funded advertising campaign aimed at mitigating the effects of fee hikes on application numbers in 2011.

The message: student debt is different to a loan you’d get from a bank – repayments are easier, interest rates are capped and you don’t begin paying it back until you’re earning a reasonable salary.

Stop listening to those cynical lefties, their campaign beseeched, that £50,000 we’re asking for – you’ll hardly notice it.

This government propaganda was, of course, ludicrous. As anyone with a brain could have predicted, application numbers declined following the fee hike.

After all, even if student loans were interest-free, £50,000 is still a mountain of debt to start adult life with.

Now, this week’s news shows a fresh aspect of the government’s rank hypocrisy on student debt. Not content with having tripled fees, the Con-Dens have been conducting shady talks about selling off what remains of the state-owned student loan book.

The potential plans include a massive hike in interest rates and a retrospective change in the terms of loans given to those who graduated years ago.

All this is with the aim of making the loan book more of a ‘catch’ for potential private buyers. Their profits will come at our expense.

One argument used to justify this outrageous attack is that it would mainly affect those who graduated while tuition fees were ‘just’ £3,000 a year or less.

Things are much worse for those entering university now – for them the basic price of a degree is three times higher and their loans are far more punishing. So, claim the government, there’s no ground for the ‘three granders’ to complain.


But if this sell-off goes ahead it will surely be the thin end of the wedge. The completion of the privatisation of student loans will open the doors for ever-increasing interest rates and the tearing up of previously agreed terms.

It opens the floodgates for the banksters to make a killing from our education. Everyone who needs or has needed a loan to study will be affected.

This vicious government attack underlines the urgent need for action against student debt, fees, cuts and privatisation.

The NUS should be leading this fight, starting with a fully mobilised national demonstration in the autumn, something which Socialist Students will put pressure on them to do.

But even if the NUS won’t engage in the fightback, students need to take matters into their own hands, organising local anti-cuts and fees campaigns on every campus and linking them together nationally.

We need to build a mass movement, united with the working class and trade unions, to defend education and make it accessible to the millions.

If you want to be involved in building the fightback on our campuses – join Socialist Students!