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The other side of Mary's story

Stephen Jones' recent column (November 26) describes HE and FE reforms in typically doom-laden terms, illustrated with the sad tale of shop worker Mary, who is unable to complete her education. But there might be another way to relate her story.

Although tuition fees have risen, Mary won't have to pay anything back before her salary reaches pound;21,000. If she hasn't paid the whole loan back after 35 years, it will simply be written off. Bursaries are also promised for the deserving poor and, as a condition of universities being able to raise their fees, they now make more effort to publicise them.

Full fees will also be charged for the access course in an FE college that Mary will need to get into university. But these fees are relatively small and colleges will help Mary and other students with financial difficulties. Mary understood that debt would only be paid back in line with what she earned, and made the decision to go for it. Good for her.

Jonathan Simons, Trustee, Greenwich free school group.

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