Labour will not make an announcement on wiping out the current student debt “unless we can afford to do that,” Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has said.Ms Rayner said that cancelling the current student debt would cost £100 billion, describing it as “a huge amount”.
Asked about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s comments at the end of the General Election campaign, that he wanted to think about wiping out the current student debt, she told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “Jeremy said that that’s an ambition, it’s something that he’d like to do. It’s something that we will not announce that we’re doing unless we can afford to do that.”
She added: “It’s a big abacus that I’m working on with that, it is a huge amount, it’s £100 billion, which they estimate currently, which will increase. It’s a huge amount of money but of course we also know that a third of that is never repaid.”
She went on: “I like a challenge Andrew, but we’ve got to start dealing with this debt crisis that we’re foisting on our young people. It’s not acceptable. They are leaving university with £57,000 worth of debt, it’s completely unsustainable and we’ve got to start tackling that.”
Ms Rayner called on the Government, before September, to reverse abolishing the maintenance grants to help the most disadvantaged students, stop and reduce the percentage rate that students have to pay on their loans, and ensure on repayment, the income threshold goes up in line with average earnings.
Asked if fewer working class youngsters were getting into university education as a result of tuition fees, she said: “I don’t believe that that’s the case actually, but I do believe that many working class and part-time and older mature students are actually leaving university.”
She added: “I’m clarifying that I believe more students are going into university but there’s record levels of students that are actually having to leave university before they’ve finished their qualification and I think that’s because of the Government’s policies.
“They’ve done away with maintenance grants, they’ve increased the percentage rates of loans, and they’ve lowered the threshold for incomes so that people are paying more early on.”
Ms Rayner said the amount it would take for the Student Loans Company to reverse tuition fees would be £9.5 billion, plus the maintenance grants.