Clarity, treachery and silence 1

January 16, 2004

There is a lot of muddled thinking about "poor" students ("Grants gamble to save bill", THES , January 9), though not by Charles Clarke. All students are poor. It is their backgrounds and families that differ.

I thought the point of the higher education bill was to liberate prospective students (who are adults) from their backgrounds, ensure that they have available (through loans) the resources to cover fees (at whatever level) and living expenses when they are needed, and put in place an affordable repayment system after graduation. This will enable students to take decisions about their education without looking to their background. This is what it is designed to do. All discussion of grants and bursaries seems superfluous.

It is argued that students from certain backgrounds are debt averse and deterred from taking advantage of this system. Well, debt is a fact of life that people need to learn to deal with. It hardly seems fair that students who are assumed to be debt averse will get direct financial help, whereas those who are assumed to be debt tolerant will not.

Surely what is needed is better information and education about the financial implications of different levels of debt in terms of monthly repayments at different levels of income. Then prospective students can evaluate the affordability of the debt, weigh up the risks and benefits and decide for themselves.

Sarah Anderson
Alsager, Cheshire

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