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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Figures indicate mounting problems for One Wales' tuition fees policy

This morning's Western Mail contains an interesting article on the impact of debt on students. They tell us that new Assembly Government statistics show that a third of Welsh students have considered dropping out of university as a result of mounting financial pressures.

Almost three in five full-time students felt financial stress had a negative effect on their academic progress, and more than a quarter said concerns over debt nearly stopped them going to university altogether.

The figures are mirrored for part-time students. Almost 50% of part-time students indicated that issues over the availability of funding had led to them studying part-time, with 35% of full-time and 28% of part-time students admitting the availability of funding affected their decisions about higher education. The figures show that the estimated debt of full-time students graduating in 2008 was about £7,200.

It would be interesting to see a similar survey of those who chose not to go to university to see how the fear of debt affected their decision and look at the socio-economic background of those potential students. Other surveys I have seen indicates that those from deprived areas or single parent households are more debt averse.

NUS Wales reiterated their demand for a National Bursary Scheme yesterday, something that I would like to see in place if it is affordable from the Welsh block grant, but their opposition to the abolition of the Assembly's tuition fee grant has been lukewarm, even though the prospect of paying even more money out for fees and thus adding to the burden of debt will contribute to the problem and may well be the final straw for some students.

And this is the point. The One Wales Government's decision to abandon the tuition fee grant will add to the burden of debt. I would expect a decision like that from Labour, after all they have already gone back on a manifesto promise once to introduce fees in the first place, but I had hoped for more from Plaid Cymru.

Whatever the views and actions of individual members of Plaid, they are now members of a party that has sold out Welsh students and that is something we are not going to let them forget.
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