Blair’s ‘legacy’– Student debts set to soar!

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THIS week, as college and school students receive their A level examination results and consider going to university, the latest survey by the NatWest Bank reveals that a three-year course will cost £33,512, on average.

The main reason for this soaring cost of going to university is the Labour government’s imposition of top-up fees this year, taking the cost of tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000, over three years.

The survey by NatWest Student Money Matters showed that the cost of going to university this year will leap by 17 per cent over last year.

More than 70 per cent of sixth-formers questioned said that their biggest concern about going to university was financial worries. The numbers of school students applying for a place at university have plummeted by four per cent this year compared with 2005, because of soaring costs.

The days are long gone when students could go to university and concentrate solely on their studies, confident that they would not get into financial difficulties, because tuition was free and there were grants for those whose parents had low incomes.

In 1988, the Tory government froze grants and in 1997 the Labour government scrapped grants and imposed fees. This year the Blair government has brought in £3,000 top-up fees.

Some Labour MPs who had opposed top-up fees voted for them when the government promised grants for students from the poorest families. These amount to a maximum of £2,700 a year, that is £300 less than the new top-up fees, for families whose income is less than £17,500 a year.

According to the NatWest survey, already 46 per cent of students have to work during term time, averaging 14 hours work a week. This year 87 per cent of students questioned expected that they would have to get a part-time job to survive financially at university.

Already graduates leave with an average debt of £13,860 and 57 per cent of them said they were worried about their debts, according to the survey. As a result of debts and low incomes from their jobs, almost 60 per cent of graduates said that they still rely on their parents for financial support.

This is Blair’s ‘legacy’ in higher education!

In response to the NatWest survey, the President of the National Union of Students, Gemma Tumelty, said: ‘These figures are deeply concerning, although sadly they come as little surprise. For several years NUS has been drawing attention to spiralling levels of student debt, and with the introduction of top-up fees this year, debt levels are set to rocket.’

The message from Tumelty to sixth-formers waiting for their A level results is that they can expect a life in debt if they go to university and that all they can expect from NUS leaders is ‘deep’ concern.

The NUS leadership did not even condemn the government for this situation, let alone propose any kind of action against Blair’s attacks on students at a time when the government has never been weaker.

The Labour government is deeply divided with many MPs, even ministers, counting the days to when Blair will have to quit.

Millions of workers, middle class people and youth are enraged by the government’s wars on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and the support it has given Israel against the Palestinian and Lebanese people.

Teachers’ and lecturers’ unions are opposed to the government’s break-up and privatisation of state education and are engaged in struggles to restore their salary levels.

Alongside this, healthcare staff in their powerful unions are fighting to defend the National Health Service against devastating cuts and the privatisation of this vital service.

Students must unite with workers in their trade unions in a struggle for mass strike action to bring down the Blair government and establish a workers’ government that will restore free state education in universities.

It is clear that such a struggle requires the building of a new leadership within the NUS to kick out those leaders who accept all Blair’s attacks on students.

The Workers Revolutionary Party’s students’ section, the Young Socialists Students Society, is building a new revolutionary leadership in the NUS to unite students with the organised working class to kick out the Blair government. Join the YSSS today!