Student debt soaring

Scrap tuition fees – Give us a living grant!

Students and trade unionists marched through Newcaste on the Campaign to Defeat Fees day of action, photo Northumbria Socialist Students

Students and trade unionists marched through Newcaste on the Campaign to Defeat Fees day of action, photo Northumbria Socialist Students

STUDENTS BEWARE! The price of beans, bread and beer is going through the roof! And with a financially punitive student loans system (introduced by New Labour ministers, who benefited from free education) and £3,000 a year tuition fees, debt is piling up for those going to university.

Ben Robinson

Energy and accommodation are also getting dearer, meaning that many students will be in for a nasty shock when the bills start to come in. Food costs 13% more than a year ago. A recent NUS survey indicated that students are dramatically underestimating the cost of living. Increased bills are hitting workers and young people throughout Britain and internationally.

A recent survey said that, compared to last year, it is estimated to be £4,000 more expensive to be a student in 2008-2009. The bulk of that is accommodation rents going up.

University halls are increasingly sold off to private companies. Cut-throat capitalism is about making profit at all costs – often meaning that services in private halls are done on the cheap while costs increase for both university and student.

And for those paying bills in private accommodation (students cannot claim housing benefit), increased energy costs will soon start to filter through.

A recent Financial Services Authority survey said one in three students are constantly overdrawn. Students with credit cards owe on average £220, rising to £360 in London and the surrounding areas. With costs going up, this is set to rise.

This isn’t acceptable. Education should be a right available to everyone, but instead the only rights MPs respect are those of big business to make money out of every aspect of our lives. That’s why we’re seeing increasing commercialisation of colleges and universities.

Elite universities are pushing to be able to charge more for tuition fees. However, with Brown and his cronies in crisis, a mass movement of students could force them to think twice.

The Campaign to Defeat Fees has been to the forefront of pushing for this to happen.

This campaign – in which Socialist Students and Socialist Party members have played a key role – has organised days of action coordinated in over 50 universities and colleges over the last year, by far the biggest action on free education in years. This included national media coverage, demonstrations, meetings and rallies and a host of other protests. The day of action called on 16 October will be important.

Campaigns and action can win. We have seen successes against course closures in Sussex, and college students fighting back against high canteen prices.

Students in Southampton stopped attacks on democracy at the end of last year, with sit-ins involving around 100 students.

A fightback against fees and privatisation, and for a decent grant, is urgently needed, involving as many students as possible. But in this age of collapsing banks and global crisis, a socialist alternative based on meeting the needs of the billions, not the billionaires, is also necessary. Socialist Students will be to the fore of building both.