Socialist Worker

Fees will chain students to debt

Issue No. 1827

'TOP-UP' fees for university students, floated by New Labour, are causing widespread anger. Even 120 Labour MPs have now signed motions against the idea. Margaret Hodge, the minister for higher education, has tried to sell 'top-up' fees by claiming New Labour wants to end a system where 'the dustman subsidises the doctor'.

But the fees will hit hundreds of thousands of working class families. At present a family with an income of just £20,480 or more has to start paying fees. A family income of £30,502 means paying full fees. A male refuse and salvage collector, or 'dustman' to Margaret Hodge, gets on average £16,863 a year.

If his partner is a postal worker, clerical worker or has any such job they would have to find thousands to send their child to university. Young people will be condemned to debt. A graduate's average starting salary is just £13,500. Even on that amount students have to start repaying their debt. They must give up 9 percent of their income above a threshold of £192 a week. Hodge had the nerve to say there is no 'free lunch' for students, a phrase used by free market fanatic Milton Friedman.

She said that it is not debt which deters students - the problem is working people's 'lack of aspiration'.

Education secretary Charles Clarke, says, 'Many young people do not think twice about taking out a loan or credit to buy a car or a holiday.' Even the government's own National Audit Office says debt is the key deterrent to people going to university!

Fees will make universities even more elitist and create a two-tier system. Students who can afford fees of up to £10,500 a year will get into universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College. The rest will still have to pay 'just' £1,100 a year to get into 'second class', underfunded colleges.

Grants not fees

Assemble 12 noon, Wednesday 4 December, ULU, Malet St, London
Called by the National Union of Students

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Article information

Sat 23 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1827
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