Comment: Leave The Banks Out Of Student Loans

First appeared on The National Student on 27 June 2011

First he blamed feminism for the the unemployment of working class males (not lack of social mobility and jobs), then he said universities would end up “looking rather silly” if they rushed to charge £9,000 fees (which of course a growing number are) and now David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science is, according to The Observer, in secret talks with banks to fund student loans.

With so many universities charging the maximum fee of £9,000 a year the cost of the loans to students to cover these fees will have grown massively. Under the new system students won’t have to start paying back loans until earning £21,000 which may not be for a long time, if at all. The delay of repayment is one of the only positives of the current system for students, especially important now graduate unemployment is at its highest level for over a decade. But with such massive loans now needed for fees, not to mention maintenance, waiting for repayments could be a problem.

It isn’t likely that banks are going to want to loan to students with such little chance of them being able to pay it back any time soon. They are according to The Observer article, only likely to be on board if someone, most likely the university, is going to be relied on to take responsibility for the loan if the student can’t pay it back. Taking into account funding cuts to universities, this can only have a negative effect on education.

Relying on banks for funding is what people looking to study at postgraduate level, without access to thousands of pounds, currently do in the form of Career Development Loans on which the interest is paid to the bank by the Young People’s Learning Agency until a month after the end of the course, then repayments are expected to begin.

I am about to do a Postgraduate Diploma and, after a year of looking for other ways of funding it, am applying for a £10,000 Career Development Loan. The thought of that makes me feel sick, but as I can’t afford to work for free in London for longer than a few weeks it seems to be my best option for greatly increasing my employability in journalism.

But if I had faced getting a loan from the bank before my undergraduate there would have been no way I would have considered going to university in the first place. Three times the worry I’ve had over money for my postgrad, no chance – and I come from a relatively middle class background.

We are increasingly told there are too many people going to university, but instead of a system open to all and based on merit university will increasingly be something only the rich will consider. Maybe we should give up, leave the graduate jobs to the rich and the rest of us can do whatever is left or continue to be ‘scroungers’ on JSA where we belong.

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