Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has slammed “the current broken system” of higher education loans. She blames Conservative-led governments for creating “vast levels of debt” and passing “almost half the cost” onto taxpayers. And she insists that a Labour government would do things very differently.
“Student loan debt set to almost double”
The Labour Party has criticised the current student loan system on a number of fronts. Having looked at “official government projections”, the party revealed on 13 August that:
the total interest being racked up by graduates on their student loan debt is set to rise to £8.6 billion in 2024, an increase of £4.2 billion.
almost all the rise in accrued interest will come from the post-2012 undergraduate loans, with the total interest added to these debts set to more than double from £3.5 billion to £7.6 billion over the next five years.
fewer than two in 10 graduates will fully pay back their student loans, with the taxpayer now set to pay for almost half of all debt taken out by students this year.
Labour also mentioned the government “selling off student loans at less than half their value, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds”.
Rayner: current system is “pricing young people out of education”
Commenting on the above, the shadow education secretary stressed that:
A combination of sky-high tuition fees and soaring interest rates is pricing young people out of education and creating eye-watering debts for those who do go to university.
Under the Tories and their broken student loan system, thousands of students are being burdened with vast levels of debt that they will never be able to repay.
With almost half the cost of the current broken system being picked up by the taxpayer, the government should stop cooking the books and start being honest with the public about how we fund higher education.
And she promised:
Labour will scrap tuition fees and restore maintenance grants for disadvantaged students so that access to education is a right for all, and everyone can reach their potential, regardless of their background.
She also tweeted that the current situation was a “toxic combination for taxpayers & graduates”.
Should Labour go even further?
In the US, prospective presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is currently making waves with his own education plans. He’s promising not just to end tuition fees, but to cancel all existing student debt:
And we should make public colleges and universities tuition-free. This is not a "radical" idea. Here is how we do it: https://t.co/gd3TPjg5CA
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 7, 2019
And some UK commentators have been suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour should also make this leap:
Sorry but Labour is still being too weak here. Burgeoning debt doesn’t just mean we need to scrap tuition fees for upcoming students. It also means we need to scrap ALL student debt. pic.twitter.com/KvwOmjeNTp
— Liam Young (@liamyoung) August 12, 2019
Back in 2017, Conservative politicians and their media allies claimed that Corbyn had officially pledged to cancel all student debt. This wasn’t true. However, shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted that it was a “real ambition”. And Corbyn stressed:
there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden.
Now, though, the debate about cancelling student debt is mainstream in the US. And that may put increasing pressure on Labour to make a similar pledge in the UK.
Whether this comes or not, one thing is certain. The current Conservative system has failed, becoming toxic for both graduates and taxpayers. So something desperately needs to change. And Corbyn’s Labour seems to be leading the charge for reform.
Featured image via Wikimedia – Rwendland
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