Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuition Fees and the Potential Damage to Social Mobility Now - A Mother’s Tale

The tuition fee debate is far from over and one of the consistently loud and clear voices against tuition fees and for our party policy is Susan Gaszczak. Here is her personal view on what tomorrow's vote means for her and her family.

On the eve of the Tuition Fee debate in the House of Commons I start the day with a heavy heart. In my own household the discussion around degrees and aims, goals and dreams of my own children has caused much tension and worry.

My teenagers have not protested, but they have worried and stressed about the impact their goals in life will have on them in future years.

They have lived in recent years through a depression, seen banks collapsed and talked of debt and how dangerous it is. Talk of credit and credit cards – gambling on the stock market and high incomes have featured over the last few years.

Last night I read Nick Clegg's interview where he talked about social mobility and told us he has listened to us his party. Well maybe Nick has to listen again. These proposals will have an impact on social mobility now and here is how.

Teenagers of my children's age will be amongst the first to be landed with a debt of £18k, which they will have to repay when they reach the heady income of £21k, and that excludes the cost of actually living and eating while going to university. It will probably mean they live at home and go to University locally. Hurray I am supposed to say?

As a single mum I currently work part time, to enable me to care for them and bring them up with some stability. Hurray, they will possibly get free tuition and maybe even a bursary.

So, what is my incentive to get a full time job? Currently, I work part time on a self-employed basis for the party; seasoned party members know what that really means. I would love to find that perfect full time job, but the worry of landing my children with huge amounts of debt may stop me. So my income capacity is diminished so that I can give my children the best start in life.

At a party conference in years gone by I spoke of a young man who was affected so badly by the debt he incurred going to university it caused him mental health issues. He, at times, wanted to end his own life. That was the legacy for him of Labour bringing in Tuition Fees.

Now we face yet higher fees, yes, with a better system of repayment but still with the possibility of huge damage to the social mobility of the current generation.

I want my children to fulfil their dreams. I do not want them to worry about debt. The ironic thing is they have grown up in a family committed to public service: their dreams are to work in the public service and give something back, yet whatever way they go to university they will pay more than ever to achieve that goal.

Ministers, Junior Ministers, Parliamentary Private Secretaries, and our back bench team, I urge you to think hard before you vote for these proposals. Social Mobility will be affected, but not in the way you hope if you are backing these proposals

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