The education system is a “ticking time bomb” with students thousands of pounds in debt and many parents having to re-mortgage their homes in order to pay tuition fees.
The States yesterday debated higher education funding options and criticised the current arrangements, where parents are struggling to send their children to college or university.
Deputy Andrew Lewis yesterday urged ministers to deliver a solution to “a system in crisis” due to the exorbitant cost of higher education.
He said: “Access to higher education in Jersey should be on the basis of the ability to learn, not the ability to pay and our economy desperately needs highly qualified people.”
“Members of the public who have lobbied me are not looking for hand-outs but some sort of financial assistance. I have emails from a large cross-section of the community and it is the middle-paid who are finding it difficult, particularly if they have two or three children. How do your decide who goes on to higher education and which one doesn’t? That is the choice some parents are having to face and that is a travesty of justice.
“A recent education survey said a total of 46% pf people are using their pension funds to pay for their children’s higher education. Another 84% said they have used all, or some of their savings to pay for it and 35% have re-mortgaged their homes, while 32% have told their children they can’t afford to send their children to university. That is the most damning statistic.
“The most recent education report in May said there is no immediate answer, although we will continue to explore ideas. No solution has yet been found over this issue of higher education funding.
“The student loan system has not been a success and I am not saying we should copy it, but there are things we can learn from it. Once you get over £26,000 a year the grant you get tapers off very quickly, which means those in the middle of earners find this most difficult.”
Education Minister Rod Bryans insisted the numbers of locally trained nurses and teachers in Jersey are increasing.
He said: “We are looking to help all our young people to go to university from Jersey across Europe, especially in Holland and Belgium, where there are English-speaking courses and they are cheaper.
“Crucially, two weeks ago we approved an extra £2million for the higher education budget and that will be in our budget by 2019. It means the lower income threshold will rise from £26,750 to about £34,000. This will enable us to help more families and is an important step forward.”
We can’t control UK universities. We are the customers on the receiving end of their fees and it is a sellers market, but we can look for a better long term funding solution ad remove as many obstacles as possible for people wanting to go to universities.
“Have we moved forward, yes. Can we do more, yes. Is the solution complicated, yes. We met do all we can to make young people achieve their aim of going on to higher education.”
Deputy Sam Mezec said the principle should be for a system which allows young people with talent and ability to reach the height of their academic achievement and money should have no impact on their ambitions.
He said: “It is wrong to say to people who have talent, in pursuing their aspirations, should then be saddled with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt. It is wrong to have a system which divides families as they argue over which children get priority because their families can’t afford to send them all to university.
“It is a system which hammers those who are largely in the middle of the income bracket and don’t qualify for a grant and have to make big sacrifices to send their children to college.”
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