Loans and fees do not aid access

February 4, 2000

One might have presumed that the removal of grants and the creation of loans was based purely on new Labour's desire to save the Treasury some money. The extent of those savings being dictated by the government's assessments of present parental ability - not to be confused with willingness - to pay and some bullish projections that the future income of students should generally match the past performance of graduates in general. Unlike purveyors of equity investments, governments never feel obliged to advise that graduate incomes might go down as well as up.

In David Blunkett's piece, not only are we introduced to a new category few will recognise - the wealthy student who pays in full - but also to the significance of the cleaner. How odd that the latter should be presumed to be especially keen to economise on education expenditure so soon after electing a government that adopted "education, education, education" as its slogan.

Nevertheless, it is parental circumstance that directly influences the amount of student debt government imposes on individuals. Many parents will inevitably feel an obligation to help to pay off debts that they have drawn down on their children. Not impossible, then, to envisage Blunkett's cleaner working purely to help offspring pay off the burden of loan repayments - and wishing maintenance grants were with us still.

Alan Hallsworth Alsager, Cheshire

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