Major parties leave students in debt

A SURVEY for the Times Higher Education Supplement shows massive opposition to tuition fees and the abolition of the grant.

Kieran Roberts

63% of those surveyed believed that tuition fees and repayable loans deterred people from applying for university. 73% thought that maintenance grants should be reintroduced.

Few students hold out much hope that any of the main parties will reverse the trend of ever-spiralling debts. They know that previous governments, Tory and New Labour, are directly responsible for the massive debts, averaging £12,000, which students incur.

One of New Labour’s first acts in government was to announce that the grant was going and they were introducing tuition fees. This has forced thousands of students off their courses because they cannot afford to pay their fees.

New Labour certainly don’t promise students any change in direction. True, they ruled out university-imposed top-up fees, but David Blunkett clearly implies that he may raise the cost of tuition fees, even to cover the full cost of tuition, about £4,000 a year.

Although the Conservatives say that students will only start repaying loans when they earn £20,000 a year rather than £10,000 under Labour, they want to sell off all student debt to banks and insurance companies and increase the interest students pay on their loans.

These policies could leave the poorest students with the biggest debts at the mercy of finance companies and bailiffs. Ending state funding for universities would be a huge step towards privatisation of universities, and inevitably higher fees.

The Liberal Democrats say they favour the abolition of fees and support a funding system like that introduced in Scotland.

The abolition of up-front fees in Scotland proves that the government can be forced to abolish fees. It has also meant a sharp rise in Scottish applications in contrast to the rest of Britain.

However, the Scottish concessions are far from free education. Instead of paying upfront fees students pay their fees after they graduate. Scottish students still have thousands of pounds of debt on leaving university. This will deter the poorest students, particularly as a recession develops.

All the main parties’ policies are determined by their support for big business. If elected they will try and go further in their attacks on students and education.

However, socialists are standing in the general election to provide an alternative to Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat policies. Socialist Party candidates fight for free education, the only guarantee that everyone has an equal chance of going to college and university regardless of background. We will do this if elected or not.

We’re currently building a mass campaign of non-payment of fees in order to make them unworkable. A mass movement built around this strategy is the best way to defeat tuition fees and win back the grant.