Page 10, 31st January 2003

31st January 2003
Page 10
Page 10, 31st January 2003 — Weighing our children down with debt

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Weighing our children down with debt

Keywords: Credit, Debt, Social Issues

Counter Culture Leonie Caldecott

Anumber of commentators have howled about the Government's plans to allow universities to charge large fees for students whose parents earn more than £30,000 per annum. Aside from the fact that 00,00.0 is about the minimum you need to house, feed and clothe More than two children (leaving aside paying for a car etc) in the south of England, no one seems to have pointed out that landing middle-class youngsters with potential debts of up to £20,000 for their education is actually the last straw. For with property prices the way they are in this country (and some parts of the north are suddenly escalating as the south becomes an impossible proposition for anyone other than investment bankers), this extra debt

will have to be added to a huge mortgage.

And that's just the beginning. It can hardly escape the average parent's attention that these burdens are made much worse for families who have the gall to bring more than one or two children into the world. For of course no selfrespecting parent wants to leave even their grown-up children to struggle against impossible odds. So if you have three, or four, or, God forbid, even five children bright enough to go to university, your family have collectively incurred up to £100,000 in debt for that alone.

Perhaps Tony and Cherie think that, after all, a university education will fit everyone for high income careers (like theirs), and that the bright young expensively-educated things will easily be able to shoulder this debt, along with their mega-mortgages, within a few years of leaving college. But the fact is that most universityeducated people, particularly if their career aims are more to do with, say, social or religious ideals, will never make the grade. What about someone whose degree leads them into the religious life? OK they don't have to start paying

off the debt until they are earning more than £15,000 a year. But why do I have the feeling that Gordon Brown will find some way of clawing back the money from them anyhow?

Then if you simply want a job which uses, say, your love of ideas (academia or book publishing, to name but two, being notorious for their low salaries), you will never make the sort of money, at least in your twenties. which will enable you to shoulder this level of outgoings. The same thing applies to teaching, for which a university degree of some kind is usually a necessity. Let's not even talk about nursing, police work, etc.

Now it also happens that your twenties and early thirties are the time when you are likely to bear children. Couples in this country are already struggling, and most mothers are obliged to juggle some kind of work with their family responsibilities, for the simple reason (I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating) that they are competing for housing with increasingly large numbers of dual-income couples.

finally, let's throw in another delightful

economic factor. Pensions. Ah yes, you say, isn't there a problem with these now? Too right there is. My generation are unlikely to ever be able to retire, as our pensions have gone seriously pear-shaped. And as we have noted, the cost of living in this wretched country is way too high. Since we will not have paid our mortgages off by the time we reach our sixties (you remember the scam about the endowment policies too, I assume), we will have no option but to sell up and move somewhere cheaper. We will then be faced with the problem of whether to live off the money we have "released" from our homes, or to give it to our debt-raddled children to spare them some of the stresses that we know full well take a terrible toll on human happiness,

Perhaps the growing craze for euthanasia could come in handy here. Now sir, madam, you've passed your economically useful stage. Take the injection and let the poor sproglets have what cash you have left. Like I said: it's time to think about emigrating. Only not to Holland.

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