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From: The Socialist issue 937, 22 February 2017: Support the NHS? Join the march!

Search site for keywords: Fees - Student - Debt - Education - Students - Tories - Pay - Grants - Privatisation - University - Tuition Fees - Big business - Higher Education - Low-paid

Stop the student loan sell-off - scrap all fees

Socialist Students marching for free education, 2016, photo by Isai Priya

Socialist Students marching for free education, 2016, photo by Isai Priya   (Click to enlarge)

Mary Finch, King's College London Socialist Students

The Tories are once again trying to privatise student debt.

If the plans go ahead, students could be facing a debt crisis on an unprecedented scale. It's unlikely the Tories plan on stopping privatisation at historic debt.

Along with the attacks in the Higher Education Bill, a precedent will be set for mass privatisation and marketisation of education. The government has already relieved itself of responsibility for maintenance grants.

Their first attempt in 2014, which would have sold off all pre-1998 loans, failed. The current proposal is to sell off all pre-2012 student debt.

In both instances, the proposals were justified by arguing that selling off student debt to the private sector increases government income from loans.

For a start, student debt is an exclusionary and inefficient way to fund education. Nationalising the banks and top corporations could pay for free education at all levels for everyone who wants it, and a lot more besides.

But even in the context of the loan system, the Tories' claims are utterly false. Privatising the debt would mean a lump sum, not the steady income the government currently collects. Only the Tories' big business friends would benefit.

The vast majority of students - like myself - took out their undergraduate loans on the promise that we wouldn't have to pay them back until we were earning at least a certain (modest) income.

Many students will soon have postgraduate debt added to that as well. The loans for masters and PhD courses introduced last year are the only route into postgraduate education for most students.

Rising tuition fees and living costs have recently meant dropping numbers of applications for university. But it's possible that, in the short term, this new level of access to postgraduate education will mean many students - often desperate to get an edge in a low-wage, insecure jobs market - increasing their debt even further.

That means some could have up to £71,000 of debt, not including interest. That same insecure and low-paid work means there's no way most can pay it back.

The Socialist Party says no to the sell-off. Scrap all student debts and fees, and restore maintenance grants, to make education truly accessible to all.

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