Like with many breakthrough initiatives there’s usually a sinister catch attached to each; the post war processed food revolution and obesity; thalidomide and babies with three legs, human cloning and Frankenstein. Now, Scotland’s free tuition fees and unacceptable student debts in the tens of thousands.
Earlier this month students at my uni (University of Stirling) held a demonstration against the unreasonably high rent prices for our accommodation and rightly so. Third year Dave Kennan commented, “It’s quite frankly disgusting that students have to pay £137 per week, for a single bedroom and shared facilities, when the lowest student loan stands at £475 per month.” Currently our scoundrel of a principal enjoys rent free stay in his swanky uni bungalow and a more than comfortable annual pay package of £262, 000. Scandalous. Not to mention the plans to increase rent on the new developments – i.e. the most expensive developments – by 2.5%. This singular case beacons the unfairness surrounding uni life for young people across the country.
Along with many others I too receive the minimum loan payment and paying my rent for the facilities I have is the worst kind of time of the month. The student loan system exists primarily so that students can afford to pay the too often extortionate accommodation rent prices only live off the remaining pennies. I know from first-hand experience the financial hardship students have to face; living off a tenner a week isn’t ideal. Every month my rent payment eats my food, steals my train fair home to see my family and stunts my social life but hey, at least I still get free tuition.
This is the reality faced by the majority of students and those from the most deprived areas are feeling the brunt. It’s a cruel irony that the loan system places the poorest in the greatest amount of debt and the wealthiest in the least. On a superficial level it may seem fair that those who come from the poorest families get the most and those from the richest get the least but in the end what it means is the poorest pay back the most and the richest pay back the least. In 2015 the Scottish Government’s annual figures for student support in Scotland showed that around 20,000 of Scotland’s least well-off students have taken out loans averaging nearly £5,900 a year to fund their living costs compared to 1,900 students from well-off homes who each took out an average loan of £4,600 in 2014. These are shocking recent figures which are scarcely improving if at all now. As of this year Scotland now has the highest university dropout rate in the UK, bet you can guess one of the leading reasons. The cost of living is too damn high.
Even in the midst of all this undeniable BS people across the country are uniting in the greater fight for fairness. University College London (UCL), among others, have battled a great campaign to ‘cut the rent’; more than 150 students in two halls of residence UCL are withholding rent amounting to over £250,000. As a member of the RISE Young Team (RYT) and a true empathiser I think it is crucial to show solidarity with all fellow students and stick it to the SNP’s so called innovation. Strength in numbers.
– Truth Weideger