The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Matt Stanley Headshot

Student Movement Gets Ready to Resist Rising Debt

Posted: Updated:

This year the Tories are preparing a new, massive attack on students, which promise to be as regressive and damaging to the future of millions of people as the trebling of tuition fees has been - plotting to sell all our student loans to private debt collectors, who are hungry to make a profit out of saddling us with more debt than we signed up to.

Despite being leaked to the national press, too few students are aware that a secret report for the government has proposed increasing the cap of interest on student loan repayments as a means of maximising the future profits for the private companies that the government wants to sell our loans to.

'Can they increase the interest rates after I graduate? Didn't I sign up for a certain level of interest when I took out the loan?' I hear you ask. The Tory minister for universities, David Willetts, answered that question himself in a parliamentary select committee last June when he said: "In the letter that every student gets there are some words to the effect that the government reserve the right to change the terms of the loans."

So, if the student loan book is privatised all students and graduates with any student debt remaining could face years more of repayments on our loans as interest rates are likely to soar. To put it bluntly, this proposal would lead to a retrospective hike in tuition fees.

Students are, however, building a movement to stop the government in its tracks. The Student Assembly Against Austerity is co-ordinating a major national week of action from Monday 3 - Friday 7 February, with more than 45 campuses already signed up to take part.

At my campus, MidKent College, where students are still struggling to make ends meet following the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and where too many young people are being put off going to university after the hike in tuition fees, the idea of our future debts rising further still as a result of privatising the student loan book is a worrying prospect.

That is why students at MidKent College will be playing our part in the national week of action. We will be organising a creative stunt, an 'obstacle course of debt', to represent the barriers in education that this Tory-led government is placing in the way of young people realising their potential. We will also be putting pressure on our local MPs to come out against the sell-off of student loans by signing the Early Day Motion in Parliament which is gathering support.

If the privatisation of the student loan book does represent as large an attack on students as the issues that sparked the huge student revolt in 2010 - opposition to trebling of tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA - this begs the question: can students build a movement approaching the huge struggles we saw in 2010 to stop this latest attack?

This depends firstly on whether or not the millions of people that are impacted by this policy - past, present and future students -, find out what the government are planning to do with their student debt in time. The Student Assembly Against Austerity's national week of action in February is our perfect opportunity to sound the alarm loud and clear.

Around the Web

Average Student Debt - Huffington Post

Student Debt: Pictures, Videos, Breaking News - Huffington Post

OCCUPY STUDENT DEBT CAMPAIGN

Repay Student Debt > Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Student Debt Crisis

Sen. Elizabeth Warren promises action on student debt loads

Student Debt Continues Steady Climb

10 Fun Facts About the Student Debt Crisis

Screw U: How For-Profit Colleges Rip You Off