Five months before the presidential election, it’s time to look in the rearview mirror to take stock of the five-year term and increase the pressure on future candidates. What has been the social policy in favor of students? What were the advances, the renouncements?
On the occasion of International Student Day, which takes place this Wednesday, Paul Mayaux, President of Fage, expresses these regrets and his hopes.
The stock exchange reform, which has been promised to you many times, will it take place before the end of the five-year term?
It is unlikely five months before the election. No doubt because the government has prioritized commitment income, which targets young people considered to be more in difficulty than students. This abandonment of the scholarship reform during this five-year term is a real regret, and the students do not understand this decision.
What would have had to be changed?
Today, a third of students receive a scholarship. It would be necessary to integrate, among the beneficiaries, those of the middle class who do not receive it, because the income of their parents is taken into account even though the latter do not help them. We must also work to avoid threshold effects. Because currently, if the parents of a student earn a little more than the previous year, he may find himself cut off from his scholarship.
It is also necessary to allow scholarship students to have access to certain services, such as complementary solidarity health or energy vouchers. Finally, the scholarship system in higher education must be harmonized. Because currently, it is the regions that pay their grants to students in paramedical courses, while for the majority of other courses, the CROUS takes care of it. It would be more efficient for the CROUS to manage all the scholarships.
La Fage recommends the establishment of a student back-to-school allowance (ARE) in the amount of 275 euros. Why did the government not follow you on this point?
Probably because it has set up other aids, such as the solidarity aid of 150 euros paid to scholarship students during the health crisis or the inflation allowance, which will be paid from December 2021 to February 2022 to students scholarship holders, apprentices and students who are fiscally autonomous. But for us, this should not have replaced a back-to-school allowance. According to our last indicator, the back-to-school period would cost 2,392 euros, an increasing amount.
But the Ministry of Education retorts that it has spent 3.3 billion euros for social assistance this year. And at the start of the school year, it froze registration fees and rents for Crous housing, and increased grants by 1% …
We must go further. Because if the stock markets have increased by 1% this year, inflation has increased by 1.9% over this period. And buffer measures should not replace structural aid.
Almost one in two students work outside of class. Will this trend increase?
It could become generalized. Having a job while studying is a good thing, as long as you don’t have to pay a salary to survive. Because several studies show that beyond 8 hours of work per week, the job competes with studies and degrades the quality of learning. Even can cause failure.
“La Fage asks that the APL be adapted to the living areas, because their amount is the same everywhere”.
Your solidarity grocery stores, which help the most precarious students, have they been taken by storm since the start of the school year?
Yes, the number of students requesting these groceries is increasing. This is because of the precariousness of students with the appearance of a new audience for this device: middle-class students who do not receive scholarships and who are not helped by their parents. In Valenciennes, there were around 80 registered for the solidarity grocery store last year, and at the start of the school year, we are around 200.
The non-recourse to certain aids is a reality. What should the government have done to improve this?
There are gaps in communication. A one-stop-shop for student aid should be set up that would allow them to apply for APL, emergency aid, AAH (disabled adult allowance), etc.
You were disappointed with the engagement income. Is it because it doesn’t really address your audience?
This is a failed promise, because it does not include young graduates whose training is sometimes out of step with the job market and who find themselves without income for several months after leaving training. Support modules should be offered for this audience and thus really include diplomas in a path towards social and professional integration. In 2016, the First Job Search Assistance (ARPE) was created by the previous government. It was intended for young people who have recently graduated, in order to support them on the job market. And this financial boost of 550 euros maximum was granted for 4 months maximum. It was abolished in 2019, then reinstated last year, but with more restrictive award criteria, and it will no longer be accessible on January 1, 2022. It should be re-proposed by coupling it with support for young people by the APEC.
On the APL (personalized housing assistance), what should the government have done?
The drop of 5 euros in 2018 was very badly felt by the students. La Fage asks that the APL be adapted to the living areas. Because rents are very expensive in cities like Nice, Paris or Annecy. And yet, the amount of APL is the same everywhere.
In addition, over the past two years, the student housing crisis is more acute. We have seen students sleeping in campsites, with friends, in cars… In particular in Angers and Strasbourg. La Fage was able to organize itself to offer these students temporary accommodation. But other solutions must be found, such as making the HLM park more open to student roommates.
Regarding the construction of student housing, do you estimate that the government will be able to achieve its objectives of 60,000 by the end of the five-year term?
A priori yes. But of the 60,000 housing units, 24,000 will be managed by private landlords, and rents will therefore not be offered at a social rate.
“We would like to offer presidential candidates a great oral on student life”
One of the great measures of this five-year period concerning young people was the creation of the Universal National Service (UNS). What do you blame him for?
For 2022, the planned budget is 110 million euros, and it is up 48 million euros compared to 2021. These funds could have been more useful to associations working for young people. Moreover, it is not in two weeks of SNU that we manage to create diversity. This is achieved by revising the school map.
It was removed in 2019. It was reinstated last year, but with more restrictive award criteria and will no longer be accessible on January 1, 2022.
How are you going to challenge the candidates during the campaign?
From now on, we will contact the candidates’ youth advisers in order to directly address them to present our body of proposals and influence their programs. This would make it possible to participate in the construction of the public policies of tomorrow. We would also like to offer candidates a large oral.
Are you going to organize a real front of student organizations to make common demands?
I don’t think so, because today the landscape of student organizations is quite fragmented.
Pollsters predict strong abstention among young people during the presidential election. Do you intend to encourage them to vote?
La Fage will organize a communication campaign to remind students of the value of the citizen vote.