By Will Saunders, editor of The Mallard
Students! The Conservatives need your vote!
No, we’re not promising loads of free stuff – but that’s because we want to make promises we can keep, rather than ones that just sound nice in the election campaign. Over the last seven years, Conservative-led governments have delivered key policies that improve students’ lives. Yes, we raised tuition fees – but at the same time, we increased the repayment threshold from £15k to £21k, meaning that lower-earning graduates will pay less in the long term. Beforehand, if you earned £22k after uni, your yearly repayments would have totally £630, working out at over £50 a month. Under the new system, a graduate earning the same amount would pay just £90 a year – £7.50 a month, or just 25p a day. Although you may have a higher debt, you could therefore end up paying much less back.
We’ve also improved life for students while they’re at university. Poorer students now receive over £8000 a year in maintenance assistance – and if universities want to charge the higher rate of fees, they have to demonstrate how they’re making higher education more accessible for students from lower-income backgrounds. This sounds like waffle, but it’s led to many universities rolling out huge scholarship and bursary programmes. At my university, Sussex, students from low-income households benefit from a £1400 grant every year, as well as a £2000 rent-waiver in their first. As well as this, we’ve recently begun the process of banning letting agent fees. Already illegal in Scotland, it’s high time that students in private housing were no longer charged hundreds of pounds for copy-and-paste contracts, or a name-change that takes ten minutes to process. But the Conservatives need your vote to finish implementing this, ensuring that students no longer have to worry about predatory letting agents taking advantage of them.
Speaking of worries, many students experience anxiety about what they’re going to do after graduate. With more people going to university than ever before, it’s fair to say that the graduate employment market is extremely competitive. But the Conservative-led governments have been working hard to make sure that the supply of jobs meets the demand. Since 2010, we’ve created 2-million new jobs – and the government is hard at work, creating an environment in which companies want to come to Britain and employ the graduates of some of the world’s best universities.
On June the eighth, you will have a quite simple choice. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party all want your vote – but they’re prepared to win it by making promises that they know they can’t keep. On the other hand, the Conservative Party is committed to providing stability in uncertain times, by maximising your opportunity to learn, earn and get on with your life.