LEADING ARTICLE: Let students pay - it's only fair

Related Topics
Students are taking to the streets again. Yesterday's protest in London, organised by the National Union of Students, follows years and years of marching about student hardship. Maintenance grants from the Government continue to be cut. And student loans are not always enough to make up the shortfall once rents are taken into account. The National Union of Students claims that many students are now skipping meals in order to get by.

This is a serious situation, but the answer is not for the Government to give higher grants. It currently pays tuition fees for each student as well as providing means-tested grants. So students on a three-year course are picking up a subsidy from the taxpayer of at least pounds 2,300 in comparison with their classmates, who left school at 16 or 18 and who get nothing. And that subsidy will help to improve their earning power for the rest of their lives. Both expense and inequity suggest there should be no return to the past.

The Government's policy of making students pay back some of the costs themselves is, in principle, sensible. Students can at present borrow from the Student Loan Company at extremely low interest rates and defer repayment until they are earning more than pounds 15,000. In future, the Government wants to shift the emphasis away from this agency towards the high street banks, by giving the latter subsidies so that they can lend directly to students. Of course, banks will want considerable insurance against the risk of default. Meanwhile, students will need to be protected against sudden and inconvenient demands from banks for higher levels of repayment.

Any form of loan like this raises problems in the way it affects student attitudes. Many students are clearly stressed by the prospect of thousands of pounds of debt hanging around their necks. It makes them less likely to go into relatively low-paid fields such as teaching. And those who come from low-wage families may find that the idea of large debts puts them off university altogether.

One way round these problems would be to change the repayment mechanism. A graduate tax rather than a private loan repayment might be less of a disincentive for teenagers pondering college for the first time. An extra 2 per cent on your future salary, for example, sounds a lot less daunting than starting work with a debt of pounds 10,000 - even if the sums add up in the same way. Using the National Insurance system as a mechanism to collect the money would avoid having to establish a parallel bureaucracy.

The principle is clear. So long as people are not discouraged from low- paid work or from going into higher education at all, students should pay part of the cost themselves. And the savings should go to expand educational opportunities for the 70 per cent of teenagers who never make it to university and who were forgotten in yesterday's march.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas