The government is “considering” making changes to tuition fees to address the impact of high interest rates, Andrea Leadsom has suggested.
Speaking in the Commons today, the Conservative leader of the House said “the mood of many colleagues has been heard” when it came to student finance.
Yesterday the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) concluded students in England and Wales would graduate with average debts of £50,800 once interest rates on student loans are raised to 6.1%.
Conservative MP Richard Graham today pressed Leadsom on the impact this would have.
“While the original policy introduced by the coaltiion government was widely sported and remains progressive, things have changed slightly because the level of interest at which both living costs and studies will be repaid rises to 6.1% this September.
He added: “I think a number of us are very concerned about this.”
Graham said he wanted to see “that debate which the first secretary of state [Damian Green] intimated he would like to see too”.
Leadsom told him: “Student finances are not like a normal commercial loan. The taxpayer contributes significantly still to the costs of higher education for university students.
“It’s right that those who benefit from the higher earnings from from graduate roles should contribute to that cost.”
But she added: “However the mood of many colleagues has been heard and I am quite sure the Department for Education are considering this.”
A spokesman for the Leader of the Commons told HuffPost UK that the Department for Education has made clear that it is always looking at the student loan system to make sure it is fair and effective.
On Saturday, Green, who is in effect Theresa May’s deputy prime minister, said there needed to be a “national debate” about tuition fees.
However Michael Gove, the new environment secretary and former education secretary, told the BBC the current £9,250 tuition fee price-tag was right.
“If you don’t benefit from a university education, you shouldn’t have to pay additionally to support those who do,” he said.
Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to make university education free has been seen as one of the key drivers behind the surge in the youth vote for Labour.
Speaking to the British Chambers of Commerce today, Corbyn repeated his call for tuition fees to be axed.