UK faces crisis as student debt rockets

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Prime Minster Tony Blair’s neglect of students’ mounting debts is creating an impending crisis that is going to cost Britain dearly, James Malysz warns…

Back in 1992, the British Government awarded university status to dozens of former polytechnics. Many of our more "educated" citizens claimed that this would reduce the value of a university degree.

They were right, but not in the sense they had meant it in.

Universities were now open to a much wider audience, benchmarks began to be put in place for getting a higher percentage of those of us from working class homes into university.

But something they perhaps had not considered was that by nay on doubling the student population, grants would have to be paid to them.

The government effectively priced itself out of offering higher education. But this was back in the dark-days of old Conservatism.

Former polytechnics have on the whole been a success, and most graduates from them find employers will largely only pass them up for Oxbridge graduates.

So in 1997 – the Conservatives’ last year in government – they planned to abolish grants and introduce loans.

Before they were introduced Tony Blair and his finely-groomed entourage spun into town on white horses, with "Things can only get better" as their backing soundtrack.

He pledged to hand the rose of Labour to education, repeating that very word several times, promising to improve it.

For the lower-echelons of the academic hierarchy, Labour has largely delivered.

Pass rates are higher than ever before, leading the media to relentlessly question the validity of the qualifications themselves.

A quick scan through The Times A-Z of Careers (10th addition), suggests you won’t have much of a career if you’re not a graduate.

Surprsingly, average starting salaries range from about £10,000 per annum to £16,000 over the same period, the A-Z of Careers says.

Yet the average graduate now leaves university £12,000 in debt.

This no doubt contributes to the average Briton’s £3,500 debt, as calculated in a recent survey.

As the new academic year rolls in, those people that will be in their final A-level year, myself included, will leave with an estimated average of £17,500 of debt.

This is expected to rise for the year below mine too.

The only way to avoid the debts is to live at home, conserve costs and effectively conduct yourself through the best years of your life like a monk.

Student culture is on the verge of being wiped away by the rose of what can only be described as an apathetic Labour government.

The same survey that revealed today’s A-level student will leave for the working world nearly in £17,500 debt, also offered another shocking figure: that 40 per cent of parents haven’t saved any money for their child to go to university with.

With the cost of raising a child up to 16 years of age higher than ever before, this perhaps hardly surprising.

Even the maximum loan (approximately £4,000 per year) is not enough to allow a student to live anymore.

Most students have part-time jobs and their parents coming in financially just to keep them in university.

The Conservatives now say they can abolish student loans, and re-instate the former grants.

It was supported, but cautiously. Iain Duncan Smith is at best of questionable charisma, and facing Blair – who has failed to deliver on his promises of education when he was an extremely convincing leader – with little hope of winning.

Next year, academic year 2004, phase one of the top-up fee legislation will come into play (if it is passed).

Bit by bit this government has turned it’s back on Briton’s future leaders and future wealth creators.

How much longer they can afford to ignore the issues of students?