A Sensible Solution to the Tution Fees Crisis | Max Parry

In June, Corbyn’s Labour inspired a twenty-five-year high youth turnout. One of his most popular policies was the intention to abolish tuition fees, which has quickly become one of the most important  issues in modern political times.

After the snap General Election, YouGov did a poll on voting intention based on peoples education. Interestingly amongst people with low educational qualifications, classed as GCSE or below the Conservatives were 22% ahead of Labour. Whereas amoungst people with high educational qualifications, defined as degree level or above, Labour were 17% ahead. According to the “Ipsos Mori How Britain Did Survey” young people greatly preferred Labour with 60% of 18-24 year olds voting for Corbyn’s team. What this tells us is that graduates don’t want the younger generations to have to go through the same debt-ridden university system, and decided to vote for Labour and their policies.

The Conservatives have recognised this threat and are already planning ways in which to incentivise the young over to the centre-right. It is rumoured, there will be big changes in the upcoming budget regarding tuition fees, even after the Prime Ministers announcements at her party conference.

Some of the biggest policy announcements at the Conservative conference in Manchester were the freeze in tuition fees at £9,250 a year, and a review into tuition fees. Also, the threshhold for paying back loans will rise from £21,000 to £24,000. These pledges will save a million students £360 a year – Not enough, but an improvement none the less, and hopefully a sign of more to come.

A review later this year will consider more radical changes like lowering interest rates, reintroducing maintenance grants, and possibly cutting the cost of tuition fees. The Conservatives are clearly trying to win over some of the youth that they so dearly need on board to win back their majority, but with Corbyn promising to abolish fees completely, can the Tories really compete?

The truth is the Tories can’t as they can’t fall into a bidding war with Labour.The tuition fee problem won’t disappear, because the costs of a university education are ridiculous. Tuition fees can’t be scrapped, we just don’t have the finances, the IFS suggest it will cost between £8 to £11 billion a year. This would be disastrous at a time when austerity is easing, and public spending is slowly getting back to pre - 2008 levels. Unfortunately, tuition fees will not be the first policy priority on the agenda for the Chancellor, as there are more important issues elsewhere.

Abolishing tuition fees is unfair. It punishes workers who instead of racking up huge debts, chose to earn their money and support themselves financially instead of going to University, whilst their student counterparts aren’t contributing economically. Put simply, it punishes people who get on the careers ladder and start paying taxes from their earnings.

Furthermore, scrapping fees reduces the incentive for students to gain worthwhile degrees. While degrees are expensive, they force students to do degrees that have good career prospects, to repay their debts.

In Scotland, where the SNP have decided to abolish tuition fees, they have seen a decline in the poorest students getting into university. Usually, what stops the poorest students going to university is the number of places available, not the cost. The number of places available are directly influenced by the amount of money the university gets through general taxation. Therefore, tuition fees allow universities to offer more places providing spaces for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In England and Wales, more disadvantaged children are going to university than ever before. The truth is, abolishing tuition fees massively increases competition and decreases the chances for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Tuition fees also bring in a lot of money to fund research and deliver the best word class education that students deserve.

All the research suggests that tuition fees, despite being expensive, work.

Whilst abolishing tuition fees may not be the way forward, the Conservatives can still win the tuition fees argument. They must highlight the holes in Labours ludicrous policy, which they haven’t even properly costed.

Without abolishing fees, the Tories can make a real difference to the young. They could cut fees to £6,000 or even £5,000 a year. Which would greatly reduce the burden on students from the present £27,000 of tuition fee debt after graduating to a more manageable £18,000.

In August 2016, the government decided to abolish maintenance grants which supported living costs for students from low income background. They were replaced with maintenance loans, yet another loan to add to tuition fees and living costs. The government should re introduce maintenance grants, they had a significant impact on allowing more low-income students to finally get the place they deserve and would be a universally popular policy.

From September this year, interest rates on student loans have risen from 4.6% to 6.1%. The rates are extortionate, 24 times the Bank of England’s base rate. For example, the interest rates on a mortgage are 1.69%. The government could very easily solve this problem, by simply putting a cap on interest rates for student loans, or linking the interest rate to base rate. It would mean that students don’t need to keep worrying about the constantly increasing debt they will have to try and pay off.

Research by Times Higher Education, shows the average vice-chancellors pay has gone up by 15% in five years. Many earn £150,000 a year plus, and whilst everyone recognises it is an extremely difficult job to run an entire university, do vice-chancellors need this level of remuneration when their students are struggling to pay off their £50,000 debt? If Vice Chancellors pay remains exceptionally high, the Conservatives can’t make the argument that tuition fees go into funding research and world-class education, students just won’t believe them.

If students still don’t want the debt, degree apprenticeships are a fantastic alternative to university, recently launched by the government. A degree apprenticeship is where you can earn a degree part time, get paid a decent salary, and gain invaluable work experience, providing the best of on job and academic learning. The government must continue to promote apprenticeships offering more of them in a wide range of sectors.

The Conservatives can combat Corbyn’s promises. But they must do so by offering students a financially sustainable alternative that will benefit them in the future, not just empty promises.

Max Parry is a writer for Student Voices
A Sensible Solution to the Tution Fees Crisis | Max Parry A Sensible Solution to the Tution Fees Crisis | Max Parry Reviewed by Student Voices on 00:00 Rating: 5

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