Coalition to widen student loans system!

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LAST Thursday the government announced that it was starting a consultation process on its plans to widen the student loans system in further education to take in 19–23 year olds.

The whole concept of dragging young people into incurring massive debts for training courses at FE colleges, or for going on approved apprenticeship courses run by employers, was introduced in 2012. Then it was restricted to people over the age of 24.

According to the government at that time: ‘24+ Advanced Learning Loans have replaced government grants for some adult learners. They are an option for people aged 24 and over to fund their course fees upfront at Level 3 and Level 4 in approved colleges and training providers in England.’

The statement continued, that for anyone under the age of 24 or older and wishing to gain a more basic qualification – ‘your learning will continue to be grant funded.’

This is now to be completely changed and grant funding for all young people is to be abolished by the Tory-led coalition, forcing them to take out student loans for their higher education and training.

Commenting on this, Sally Hunt, leader of the university lecturers union, said: ‘Ever since 24+ Advanced Learning Loans were introduced, the sector has feared that it was the “thin end of the wedge” and now, it seems, we were right.’

She added: ‘We need more help for students, not more debt.’ Hunt is absolutely correct, but the point is that this government is not interested in helping students.

Having introduced fees for university students, it is now determined to complete the job of ending free, grant-based education for all school leavers. In pursuit of this aim, the government is determined to drive every young person in any form of higher education or apprenticeship scheme into taking on huge debts.

Last year the government ‘sold off’ the debt run up by students before 1998 to a private company, Erudio.

Under the terms of student loans, repayment only starts when a person earns over £28,775 a year.

Only if they earn over this amount and refuse to make repayments are they deemed to be in default.

In the past the Student Loans Company, which administers the scheme, would only report an individual to a credit reference agency if they were in default.

Evidence is now emerging that Erudio is reporting, or threatening to report, those who are not in default to these credit reference agencies unless repayment is made to them.

A bad credit report could have a disastrous effect on anyone applying for a mortgage, loan or credit card. This is the world of private debt collection agencies that the government wants to force on every young person.

The entire question of tuition fees and student debt is now set to explode once again as a clamour goes up from university heads for the present cap on tuition fees, at £9,000 a year, to be lifted.

According to the vice-chancellor of Liverpool university, universities should be given the power to charge unlimited tuition fees, with students from middle class families paying the most.

Other university heads have demanded a doubling of fees to £16,000 a year. Some leading universities have called for fees of £30,000.

With many students leaving university with debts of £50,000, these proposed increases are the final nail in the coffin of higher education for working class and, increasingly, middle class families.

What is crystal clear is that free higher education is a thing of the past as far the Tories and Labour Party are concerned – all that matters is making a profit out of education and ending all state expenditure which is seen as nothing more than a drain on the capitalist system.

The right to free education at all levels was a fundamental right won by the working class. Defending this right today means organising to bring down this government and the bankrupt capitalist system it serves and replacing it with a workers government and socialism.

On Tuesday August 19th the Young Socialists will be Marching for Jobs from the TUC HQ in London to the TUC Congress in Liverpool.

Hundreds of youth will march, demanding that the TUC Congress calls a general strike to bring down the coalition as the only way to get jobs for youth at trade union rates of pay, to end all tuition fees, to restore free state education, to make zero hours contracts illegal, and to defeat NHS privatisation.