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Lammy not answering the question on student loans

2010-04-25

In a debate on January 29, 2009, Dr Evan Harris (Oxford West and Abingdon, Lib Dem) asked David Lammy, the Minister of Higher Education and Intellectual Property (an unhappy marriage in my humble opinion!), about student loans:

While I accept that the income-contingent loans are better than what went before, does the Minister accept that the level of graduate debt is much higher now than it was 10 years ago, and will he further accept that it tends to hit women graduates harder because they stay in debt longer for reasons we understand?

A reasonable question. With so-called “top-up” fees, student debt has enormously increased in the last few years. The very terminology “top-up” masks the finances of it – if you are drinking a glass of wine and someone offers you a top-up, that is rather a different thing from a “refill” – tripling the student loan sounds much more like a refill and much less like a top-up, but there you go.

Lammy responds:

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the repayments of the loans kick in once income reaches a sufficient level, that there are repayment holidays for people if they fall on hard times, and that there are exceptions, such as for those with disabilities or mental illness. It is true that this is a loan system, but the terms of those loans are the best available in the country.

This is quite simply not answering the question. Evan Harris already made the point that income-dependent student loans are better than what went before, but his point was that it is a bad thing that so many students are in debt regardless of the repayment regime they are under.

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