student debt

Short Guardian Video of Corbyn’s Election Promises

Labour launched its manifesto yesterday, as did the Tories, and the newspapers and TV were full of it. The Guardian, however, produced this little video in which Corbyn presents the party’s manifesto promises in just a minute and a half.

The Labour leader says

‘Labour’s manifesto is a manifesto for hope. That is what this document is. We will unleash a record investment blitz. And it will rebuild our schools, our hospitals, care homes and the housing we so desperately need. Every town, every city and every region. So a Labour government will ensure that big oil and gas corporations that profit from heating up our planet will shoulder the burden and pay their fair share through a just transition tax. We’ll get Brexit sorted within six months. We will secure a sensible deal that protects manufacturing and the Good Friday Agreement. And then put it to a public vote alongside the option of remaining in the EU. And yes, be clear, we will scrap university tuition fees.’ 

At this point there is massive cheering from his audience. He goes on

‘We are going to give you the very fastest, full fiber broadband for free. That is real change. And Labour will scrap Universal Credit.’

More cheering and applause. Corbyn’s speech ends with

‘It’s time for real change. Thank you!’

The crowd rises to give him a standing ovation.

Okay, so this is a very short, very edited version of Corbyn’s speech, just giving the briefest outline of the party’s policies. But it shows that Corbyn’s policies offer real change after forty years of Thatcherism, which has decimated our schools, NHS and public services and destroyed people’s health and lives through savage welfare cuts intended to punish the poor so that the rich could profit. All of which was also carried out by the smarmy face of Blair’s New Labour, who tried presenting themselves as some kind of caring alternative to the Tories, while taking over their odious policies and actually going further.

And as Corbyn says, this is a manifesto of hope. Zelo Street has written a post comparing it with the radical changes that set up the welfare state by Clement Attlee’s 1940s Labour government and their manifesto, Let Us Face the Future. The Sage of Crewe describes how Attlee’s reforms, which set up the post-war consensus, were destroyed by Thatcher, leaving nothing but poverty and run-down, struggling public services, including the NHS, so that the rich 1% can get even richer.

But he writes

Today, Labour brought something to the General Election campaign that recalled the message of 1945, and that something was hope. Hope that students of whatever age would not be saddled with tens of thousands of Pounds of debt for years after graduating. Hope that the punitive benefit sanctions régime would no longer target the sick and disabled. Hope that a living wage really would be enough to live on.

Hope that those out-of-towners without cars would not be effectively trapped in their homes at weekends and in the evening because of public transport cuts. Hope that the NHS would be able to cope without leaving emergency admissions on trolleys in corridors. Hope that someone would, at last, take the Climate Emergency seriously. Hope that the scourge of Universal Credit would at last be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Hope that the victims of press abuse would finally see the long-overdue completion of the Leveson Inquiry, so shamelessly ducked by the Tories in exchange for favourable coverage. Hope that bad housing, and bad landlords, would finally become a thing of the past. Hope that the Police and Fire services will be able to cope, giving security and peace of mind to everyone. Hope of an end to homelessness.

Hope that education will be resourced properly, that teachers will be supported in their work, that pupils will not have to ask parents or guardians to help pay for what should be classroom essentials. Hope of real action to challenge racism in all its forms. Hope for 1950s women that pension injustice will be acknowledged – and tackled. Hope that the divisions caused by the 2016 EU referendum can finally be healed.

He goes on to predict how the people, who have profited from the poverty and misery Thatcherism, and particularly the austerity imposed by the Tories and Lib Dems over the past 9-10 years, will fight to prevent these hopes being realised. He points out that

that alone tells you whose interest is served by the decade of decay that has ravaged so many towns and cities across the country.

And concludes

‘Labour has promised us hope. Let Us Face The Future Once More.’

This is all precisely what we need, which is why the establishment will do everything they can to prevent ordinary people getting the government, a Labour government, that they deserve. Because, as the Galaxy’s dictator Servalan once said in the BBC SF series Blake’s 7, ‘Hope is very dangerous’.



Ten things to know about the 2019-20 Alberta budget

I’ve just written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent Alberta budget. Points raised in the post include the following:

-The budget lays out a four-year strategy of spending cuts, letting population growth and inflation do much of the heavy lifting.

-After one accounts for both population growth and inflation, annual provincial spending in Alberta by 2022 is projected to be 16.2% lower than it was last year.

-Alberta remains Canada’s lowest-taxed province. It also remains the only province without a provincial sales tax.

The full blog post can be read here.

Ten things to know about the 2019-20 Alberta budget

I’ve just written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent Alberta budget. Points raised in the post include the following:

-The budget lays out a four-year strategy of spending cuts, letting population growth and inflation do much of the heavy lifting.

-After one accounts for both population growth and inflation, annual provincial spending in Alberta by 2022 is projected to be 16.2% lower than it was last year.

-Alberta remains Canada’s lowest-taxed province. It also remains the only province without a provincial sales tax.

The full blog post can be read here.

Ten things to know about poverty measurement in Canada

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/11/2019 - 9:27am in

I’ve written a blog post providing an overview of poverty measurement in Canada. Points raised in the post include the following:

-One’s choice of poverty measure has a major impact on whether poverty is seen to be increasing or decreasing over time.

-Canada’s federal government recently chose the make the Market Basket Measure (MBM) its official poverty measure.

-According to the MBM, Canada has seen a major decrease in poverty over the past decade.

-Also according to the MBM, there is very little seniors’ poverty in Canada.

-The debate about poverty measurement in Canada has largely ignored the concept of asset poverty.

The link to the blog post is here.

Ten things to know about poverty measurement in Canada

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/11/2019 - 9:27am in

I’ve written a blog post providing an overview of poverty measurement in Canada. Points raised in the post include the following:

-One’s choice of poverty measure has a major impact on whether poverty is seen to be increasing or decreasing over time.

-Canada’s federal government recently chose the make the Market Basket Measure (MBM) its official poverty measure.

-According to the MBM, Canada has seen a major decrease in poverty over the past decade.

-Also according to the MBM, there is very little seniors’ poverty in Canada.

-The debate about poverty measurement in Canada has largely ignored the concept of asset poverty.

The link to the blog post is here.

Dismantling Broken Power Structures in Higher Ed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/10/2019 - 8:37am in

For decades, regulators have had only limited success in taming a for-profit college industry that routinely defrauds students, inflates prices, and produces devastatingly bad outcomes for student loan borrowers. But recently, instead of promoting complex regulatory schemes, some policymakers have offered a simple solution: take away for-profit colleges’ federal subsidies. Today, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Students Not Profits Act to remove for-profit colleges from eligibility for federal student financial aid. A ban on federal subsidies is currently the only solution that truly confronts the power imbalance that has built up in the for-profit education sector and also ensures sustained improvement in affordability and equity for all students.

To understand why a ban on subsidies for for-profit education is important, it’s helpful to have a little background on the industry—and its relationship to the federal government. For-profit colleges represent a relatively small slice of our nation’s higher education system—just 5 percent of students attend these institutions—but they eat up a disproportionately large share of federal grants and loans for college. About 13 percent of Pell Grant dollars go to for-profit institutions, and almost a third of for-profit colleges derived between 80 and 90 percent of their revenue from federal sources in 2014. And students who attend for-profit colleges are far more likely to incur significant debt. 

The substantial investment of federal dollars in for-profit colleges is problematic for three reasons. First, it subsidizes institutions that maximize extraction, offering educational programs that are of very low cost to the institution at very high prices for consumers. The very worst for-profit institutions even engage in fraud and misrepresentation to maximize profits. Second, it subsidizes programs that have exceptionally poor outcomes—both in terms of students’ likelihood to complete an educational credential and their ability to repay their debts upon leaving school. Third, it allocates federal money toward for-profit colleges that have targeted populations that are already marginalized by our higher education system: students of color and low-income Americans. 

As my colleagues Nell Abernathy, Darrick Hamilton, and I wrote in New Rules for the 21st Century, the markets-first neoliberal thinking of the last five decades has instilled in many policymakers an inherent distrust of government solutions, as well as an unfounded assumption that markets will be most effective in solving public problems. In this frame, regulation seems like the best option for dealing with the scourge of for-profit colleges. But in that same paper, we offer a different framework for understanding how to think about the best way to deploy government investment and influence in areas like education: analyzing how concentrated private power affects a particular market and how public power—government power—can most effectively be deployed to meet people’s most fundamental needs. 

Looking at for-profit education from the perspective of power clearly shows why the government’s subsidize-and-regulate approach hasn’t worked. The rules and incentives that have resulted in a concentration of power in the economy writ large have had a powerful effect on for-profit education. Current tax policy incentivizes wealth hoarding by those at the top of the economy, including colleges’ corporate executives. “Shareholder-first” orthodoxy incentivizes publicly traded colleges to invest in ways that maximize shareholder profit over value for customers and tie corporate compensation to share values. Lax enforcement of antitrust and consumer laws incentivizes colleges to consolidate market power under huge umbrella companies and market their programs aggressively. And the limited regulation of private equity incentivizes private investments in for-profit colleges that are aimed solely at profit, decimating both schools and students’ prospects in the process. Taken as a whole, these incentives drive for-profit colleges to find the most expedient ways to draw in students and federal dollars, and they make it exceedingly difficult to craft a regulatory scheme that steers the schools toward focusing on students’ and taxpayers’ best interests. 

Of course, regulation sometimes works. Between 2010 and 2016, a sustained push by policymakers and advocates to investigate and rein in the industry resulted in a substantial drop in enrollment and widespread college closures. But as The Century Foundation’s Bob Shireman points out, effective regulation in this space is cyclical: “federal money stokes scandals, regulations are adopted in response, the regulations are then relaxed, and the scandals repeat.” That’s because for-profit colleges have been able to convert their economic prowess into an enormous amount of political power. For-profit colleges leverage our government’s susceptibility to corruption and influence peddling by hiring influential former legislators as their lobbyists, making campaign contributions to key policymakers, investing in think tanks who support their point of view, and even funding “astroturf” campaigns to mimic grassroots advocacy for their positions.  

As we argue in New Rules, tackling concentrated private power in the economy and our government is essential to building a stronger economy—and doing so could really change the incentives and practices at for-profit colleges. We can take some big swings at the incentive structure that governs for-profit colleges, and we can sever the link between financial power and political influence. 

But even then, subsidizing for-profit colleges would not make sense, because it is not an effective use of public power. The federal government has two main goals in higher education: ensuring universal access to college for all who want it and eliminating the effects of discrimination in postsecondary education. Subsidizing private providers in the market is an exceedingly difficult way to do this. The government must ensure quality and equitable access without much direct control over either, while fighting against the market’s incentives to do neither. Further, the government must find the appropriate level of subsidization in a field where the cost of providing quality education is unclear, and for-profit providers have a strong incentive to inflate prices and extract profits. The government’s goals are far better served by offering a “public option”—through a set of public colleges that are accessible to all, that seek to overcome the history of discrimination in higher education, and that set a floor for quality in the higher education market. 

The case against federal subsidies to for-profit colleges is compelling. But two main barriers stand in the way of a ban. First, the notion that a market-based approach is better, more effective, and somehow more just than public provision is deeply embedded in our political culture. Second, for-profit colleges still hold substantial political power. These obstacles are substantial, but not insurmountable. Overcoming them starts with leaders who are willing to speak up and make a principled case for a better economy and society. 

The post Dismantling Broken Power Structures in Higher Ed appeared first on Roosevelt Institute.

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows


The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.


Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 


Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.


Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.

Why This Matters: If You’re Black in America, You’ll Pay More for College and Get Less

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 10:00pm in

America’s $1.6 trillion student debt crisis is crushing millions of us, but it is disproportionately harming Black people—and fueling the racial wealth gap. 

In a new Roosevelt report, co-released with Demos and The Century Foundation, Roosevelt Program Manager Suzanne Kahn and her coauthors underscore that our debt-financed higher education system reinforces the structural racism that plagues our society.

“In order to finance higher education, Black families—already disadvantaged by generational wealth disparities—rely more heavily on student debt, and on riskier forms of student debt, than white families do,” they write. Black students must borrow more to pay for college, they are twice as likely to default on their loans, and their debts last far longer than those of white borrowers.

Failing to recognize that student debt does not pay for itself, many policymakers have neglected these racial impacts.

As important as it is to address unequal practices within our higher education system (including predatory for-profit colleges that target people of color), it’s critical to remember that racialized outcomes aren’t just about discrimination at the college level; the structural discrimination in our economy starts well before college, and it definitely lasts well after graduation.

Black college graduates receive lower earnings for the same degrees as white college graduates, and Black business owners (Black farmers, for example) are more vulnerable to market power forces. The “work hard, study hard” mantra is not fostering racial equality because racial inequality is not an individual problem—it’s a systemic one. 

As Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton often notes, one statistic “vividly displays” this reality: If you’re a Black family and the head of your household graduated from college, you are likely to hold less wealth than a white family whose head of household dropped out of high school. From the higher cost of college to exclusionary labor laws that perpetuate racism, Black Americans face generational barriers to economic opportunity at every stage of life. 

“Race-neutral” higher education policies, like debt financing, were supposed to equalize the system. Instead, they have replicated and compounded racial inequality. 

This isn’t unique to higher education policy. If policymakers in any field fail to recognize and deliberately solve for structural racism in their policy plans, those plans won’t solve for racial inequality; in fact, they’re likely to make things worse.

Ultimately, Black students in America are paying a lot more for college, and they’re getting a lot less—during school, long after, and certainly before. As election season intensifies, I hope candidates and everyone watching will remember one crucial point: Race is not a single issue; it’s every issue. 

Big ideas to redefine our higher education system, and restructure the economy more broadly, must aim to dismantle structural racism. Those in power (and those seeking it) can’t ignore this truth any longer. The public—and especially Black women, men, and children—can’t afford it.

The post Why This Matters: If You’re Black in America, You’ll Pay More for College and Get Less appeared first on Roosevelt Institute.

Private For-Profit University Collapses in London

Last Thursday’s I for 1st August 2019 carried a report by Ewan Somerville on the  collapse of one of the private universities set up in recent decades, GSM, on page 11. The article, titled ‘Private London university GSM collapses’, ran

One of Britain’s largest private universities has collapsed into administration, leaving thousands of students fearing they will not be able to complete their degrees.

GSM London, a for-profit private degree provider with 3,500 students, will close in September after failing to “recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students” to stay afloat. It says 247 jobs are threatened.

The UCU lecturers’ union blamed the “marketisation of education” and warned against an “increase in poorly regulated private providers”.

Jeffrey Fernhout, 23, who has just completed an economics degree at GSM, told the I he received “no warning” about the collapse. “This has left a lot of students angry, frustrated and uncertain about their future,” he said. “But the organisation was very badly managed so this isn’t a shock.”

The Office for Students, the higher education watchdog, said its “priority is to ensure that students are able to complete their studies”. GSM promised to “support as far as possible “those needing to be relocated.

The Department for Education reiterated its stance of not “bail(ing) out failing providers”.

So much for their superiority of market forces and private enterprise. Of course, this isn’t the only university in trouble. Very many are experience financial problems, partly due to cuts in government funding. When I was studying for my Archaeology Ph.D. at Bristol, I was told that the archaeology department was faced with laying off some of its teaching staff because of funding cuts made by the Blair government. Blair, Mandelson and co. funding policy was inadequate to support courses that required expensive technical equipment. I also heard from academic friends this weekend that one university has also been forced to close their conservation course for archives and libraries, despite it being considered the leading course of this type in the country. Again, the reason was the high cost of funding against the small number of students taking the course. It’s a financially simplistic attitude that ignores the fact that archives and libraries need skilled conservators, and that the money spent on such a course is repaid in the continuing upkeep of rare and valuable materials held in institutions up and down the country.

I also think that many other universities, which are similarly experiencing financial problems, also have problems recruiting the necessary number of students. Years ago, way back at the beginning of the century, another academic friend of mine predicted this would happen. He had been looking at the demographic rates, and concluded that the bulge in the number of people in their late teens and early twenties, who would enter Higher Education, had passed. Colleges and polytechnics, which were perfectly good as they were, were encouraged, if not required to expand into universities. I think that as a result, many of them have seriously overstretched themselves. Universities have complained that the initial student fees they were allowed to charge, which were capped at £3,000, were inadequate. Hence the increase to £9,000. And this has led in turn to massive student debt.

Many students now feel that they cannot afford their education, and that includes nurses. A little while ago BBC Bristol produced a documentary reporting that students number on nursing courses had fallen. Interviewing some of those still on the course, they explained that the reason was that they simply could not afford to support themselves and pay the tuition fees. Some of those still on the course explained that they had to work to support themselves. These young people often worked long hours, as well as the time they spent on their academic and practical studies. Those aspiring nurses, who are continuing their studies in this environment, are clearly to be admire for their dedication. But it’s a deplorable way to treat the future skilled medical staff which Britain needs, especially with its aging population.

And the situation has not been helped by the concern of university management and administrators for their own enrichment at the expense of teaching staff. I understand that many of the lecturers at universities are actually poorly paid. Quite a number actually work only part-time, because full-time positions are rare and extremely difficult to get. Meanwhile, we’ve seen a procession of university chancellors awarding themselves salaries in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. This mirrors the way business management has consistently voted massive pay rises for themselves, while cutting investment and freezing pay or even finding ways to deliberately underpay their employees. Like zero hours contracts.

But despite the precariousness of university finances, thanks to Thatcherite educational policies, the government is determined not to give financial support to those failing. Which means that if they go under, tens of thousands of students will have racked up tens of thousands in debt for zilch.

The introduction of market forces and the privatisation of Higher and Further Education is a failure. It’s leaving universities in financial trouble, forcing some lecturers and other non-management staff to accept poor wages and job insecurity, and leaving students with a mountain of debt which many will find impossible to pay off.

It’s another example of the utter failure of Thatcherism, despite its continuing loud promotion by a shrilly intolerant media and political establishment. It’s time to bring it to an end, and get rid of it. All of it, including the parties supporting it – the Brexiteers, the Tories and the Lib Dems. Get them out, and a proper Labour government in.




MEDIA RELEASE: Alberta should increase social spending; cuts are not the way to go

(June 24, 2019-Calgary) With Alberta’s economy still facing challenges and vulnerabilities, the Alberta government should not be doling out tax cuts or cutting social spending, according to the Alberta Alternative Budget (AAB) released today.

“Alberta still has, by far, the lowest
debt-to-GDP ratio of any province,” says Nick Falvo, editor of the report. “We
are in a good position to increase spending on education, invest in affordable
child care, offer free dental care to Albertans under 18 years, and support
other programs that would help Albertans facing unpredictability in the job

The AAB is an annual exercise whose working
group consists of researchers, economists, and members of civil society. The
AAB  aims to create a progressive vision
for Alberta to boost economic growth and reduce income inequality.

Today’s report calls for the introduction
of a harmonized sales tax to reduce Alberta’s reliance on profit from energy
markets, that have always been volatile. Under the previous government,
important steps were taken to stabilize the economy through diversification and
social spending.

“The UCP government has already cut close
to $6 billion in provincial revenue by cancelling the carbon tax and cutting
corporate taxes, and this is the wrong direction,” says Falvo. “Instead,
investing in programs and infrastructure is what is needed to foster a vibrant

Download the report.


Contact: Nick Falvo,, 587-892-7855