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Student Funding: A Better Deal, But We Should Stick by our Promises

November 4, 2010 1:00 PM

Liberal Democrat Councillors from Shepway including Lynne Beaumont, Val Loseby, Tim Prater, Bev Rolfe, Maggie Sheldrake, Season Prater and Darren Briddock have joined hundreds of Lib Dem members across the Country in signing an open letter to all Lib Dem MPs urging them to stick to the pledges made to students not to vote for an increase in Student Tuition Fees.

The call comes as the government launches its new funding proposals for students, which contain many strong Lib Dem policies and principles. The proposals tackle much of the unfairness in the current system, and ensures no student pays more each month than they do now. The starting rate at which graduates start repaying fees is significantly increased, part-time students will no longer have to pay up-front fees and there is much stronger support for students from the poorest 25% of families. However the proposals do raise the current cap on tuition fees to £6,000 or £9,000 in "exceptional circumstances".

Hythe District Councillor Neil Matthews said:

"Lib Dem MPs should lead the fight to amend these proposals further to retain the good parts, but fulfil their pledge. If that cannot be agreed, they should vote against the rise in fees."

Lib Dem Candidate for Folkestone and Hythe at the 2010 General Election Lynne Beaumont said:

"I made a pledge to students. If I was in Parliament, I would keep my word by voting against raising tuition fees. I hope Lib Dem MPs will do the same."

Folkestone Councillor Tim Prater said:

"University funding has been fundamentally unfair for years. The Labour Government failed to tackle that unfairness - they had 13 years to sort out student funding, and did not do so. For Labour to be grandstanding on this issue now is a disgrace.

"There is much to like in the Coalition Government proposals which genuinely do make student funding fairer, particularly for lower paid graduates. There is a strong Lib Dem influence in those proposals which mean students from poorer backgrounds will pay less, that mean graduates will be earning more before making repayments, and ensuring part-time students who currently have to pay fees up front are treated on a level playing field.

"But we cannot escape from the key point. The Liberal Democrats remain opposed to charging Tuition Fees. Our Party policy is not against them through coincidence - it's because that is what Party members believe. The Lib Dem MPs and candidates who signed the NUS pledge against increasing Tuition Fees did not have to do so - but they did so, freely and rightly.

"A promise was made. That promise should not be broken."

Chair of South East Region Liberal Democrats 2011, Councillor Darren Briddock, said:

"We said we would not vote to increase fees, we should stick to that promise. Already around 15 Lib Dem MPs have already committed to vote against any rise, including Charles Kennedy, and I hope that figure will rise over coming weeks."

Councillor Sam Matthews added:

"It's sickening to hear Labour talking about Tuition Fees when they introduced them in the first place - it seems they have a very short memory. The Lib Dems made a pledge of fees - we should stick to it."

The key proposals which would make the system fairer to students include:

  • No eligible student - including part time students - will have to pay up front for their tuition.
  • Students will not be expected to contribute until they are earning over £21,000 (up from £15,000 now).
  • The Government will lend any eligible student the money to pay the university or college for tuition costs. For the first time, part-time students will be entitled to a loan and no longer forced to pay up-front costs, so long as they are studying for at least one third of their time.
  • A new £150m National Scholarships Programme will be targeted at bright potential students from poor backgrounds. It will guarantee students benefits such as a free first year or foundation year.
  • Students from families with incomes of up to £25,000 will be entitled to a more generous student maintenance grant of up to £3,250 and those from families with incomes up to £42,000 will be entitled to a partial grant.
  • Graduates will not make a contribution towards tuition costs until they are earning at least £21,000, up from the current £15,000. The repayment will be on 9% of income above £21,000, and all outstanding repayments will be written off after 30 years. This means all graduates will pay less per month than they do under the current system.
  • Under the new more progressive repayment system, around a quarter of graduates, those with the lowest lifetime earnings, will pay less than under the current system.