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Graduate debt is too high;Letter

MY organisation has been helping women to further their education by making interest-free loans towards the cost of their training since the Victorian age.

We are concerned that our applicants have an ever-increasing burden of debt at the start of their careers. The students whom we assist (who are not normally eligible for local education authority grants) wish to help themselves as much as possible, but those who are undertaking postgraduate study cannot wait to begin until they have cleared all the debts from their first course.

For example, a postgraduate veterinary student who came to us and was given a loan of pound;3,000 for her clinical years, graduated in 1998 with a very large total debt, in excess of pound;45,000.

We realise that the policy is to charge postgraduate students in veterinary colleges the same rate of fees as would be paid by an overseas student and that it has, therefore, become a test of commitment.

Debt in the form of a Career Development Loan attracts a high rate of interest, and we question a policy which places students in such an impecunious position. While our interest-free loans have always been repaid by such students, we feel obliged to reduce or delay repayment until interest- bearing loans have been repaid.

For many students the first earning years will, we feel, be prejudiced by the small residue left after repayment of debts. We wish to express our anxiety that young people of today are paying a high price to gain qualifications and will not be free of debt in what should be the most challenging years of their working lives.

The Reverend Brian Harris Honorary Secretary, Society for Promoting the Training of Women Carlby Road, Greatford, Lincolnshire

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