Since 1990, students in the UK have had to increasingly subsidise the wealth of their future employers – total student debt now stands at more than £26billion. We propose that all existing student debt be cancelled.
Prior to 1990, university tuition fees were publicly funded and every student was provided with a means tested maintenance grant – students were in effect given a nominal wage during the course of their studies. Student loans began to be issued in the 1990/1 academic year, with the average loan issued being a mere £392. With the election of the New Labour government in 1997 and the subsequent Dearing Report, a flat student fee of £1000 was introduced in the 1998/9 academic year and the grant system was finally abolished – £1.23 billion of student loans were issued in it’s place. The Higher Education Act in 2004 saw the tuition fees jump again to £3000.
Within twenty years we have gone from free publicly funded university education, to a total national student debt in 2009 of more than £26 billion! This figure is likely to be considerably higher if we were to take into account further debts accumulated through credit cards and student overdrafts. Far from this being a wise ‘investment in ourselves’, the last twenty years have seen a huge wealth transfer from students to their future employers. As a result, we suggest the retrospective cancellation of all outstanding student debts – a ‘debt jubilee’ – the cost of which should be picked up by those that have benefited from our education.