MP warns loans will put thousands of college

MP John Healey has warned thousands of would-be students will be put off going to college because of government plans to introduce Further Education (FE) loans.

The loans, due to come in next March, will mean those aged 24 and over paying up to £4,000 to take courses at level 3 (A-level equivalent) and above – including apprenticeships.

It could affect as many as 1,200 people studying at RCAT (Rotherham College of Art and Technology), 1,000 students at Doncaster, 600 in Barnsley and 300 at Dearne Valley College.

Mr Healey said: “It’s the worst possible time to bring this in. People want to improve their skills but are already worried about unemployment, debt, how they are going to pay their bills.

“The government is risking putting thousands off studying – even their own research showed only one in 10 said they would definitely still do their course if they had to take out a loan.

“This is a misguided attack on aspiration and the government is putting up barriers for people trying to get on.”

Mr Healey said women would be hardest hit. One of the affected courses is HE Access, a route to university for those who missed out first time round or are from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Around seven in 10 people enrolling on HE Access courses are women, perhaps going back to their studies after having a family.

There is also a fear these students will face a ‘double whammy’ – accruing significant debts even before they reach university, where they will face tripled tuition fees.

Mr Healey added: “I know that local college principals are extremely concerned about the impact of these loans, particularly at a time when the government have already cut FE funding by 25%.

“The government needs to think again and look properly at the effect this will have on colleges and learners.”