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Let's link FE loans to income

Last week's FE Focus shone the spotlight on adult learning, level 3 (A-level equivalent) funding and the role of loans.

But it was the Editor's Comment which identified the principles which are providing the context for the debate.

Public funding is being targeted on adults to achieve a "first" level 2 qualification, a "first" level 3 and even a "first" level 4. In addition, the greater the financial rate of return to individuals and employers, the lower the financial contribution by the state.

In practice, this means the state pays the tuition and training costs of adult "first" level 2 courses, while learner support takes the form of non-repayable grants rather than loans.

And for adult "first" level 3 courses, employers and individuals should contribute a significant proportion of tuition and training costs, while learner support should emphasise loans rather than grants.

At "first" level 3, adults need help with fees and learner support. A national system of subsidised loans is clearly the answer. But the question is what type of loan?

There are two options: an expanded system of career development loans or an extended system of income-contingent loans available to students aged 17 or over on full-time undergraduate courses in higher education.

Less than a month ago, Bill Rammell, the further and higher education minister, was rightly encouraging full-time HE students to "learn to love"

their income-contingent loan.

Higher education students only make repayments out of their pay packet at 9p in the pound when they earn above pound;15,000 a year.

Income-contingent loans would not only be a vote of confidence in further education but also a vote to increase skills development at first level 3, based on a fair system of funding between the taxpayer and adults.

Mark Corney MC Consultancy Rosewood 13 St Mary's Drive Etchinghill Hythe, Kent

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