Should We Have to Pay For University? | James Spencer-Boyce

For you and I and our generation, this issue is probably the most prominent political issue. Tuition fees – should we pay for university or should we get it free? It’s a tricky one and I don’t know if there is a right answer or a right way, only different answers and different ways.

Free universal education until 16 is perhaps one of the most taken for granted part of our society. Education can be free until 18 although many choose to leave school to acquire jobs or apprenticeships. In the UK we have a 99% adult (post 15 year old) literacy rate which is one of the highest in the world. Free education until 16 (or 18) is great – I’m not sure too many would disagree with that.

But as soon as we get to higher education we suddenly hate the idea of paying for someone else to have an education, which is understandable really.  The taxpayer already pays £2.3bn a year to tuition fees and student loans. I can estimate that figure would increase drastically if a party in government were to abolish tuition fees.  That’s an awful lot more tax to pay for someone else to study at university. On top of that, chances are that the less someone has to pay for something, so for example university, the more people are likely to want to sign up. That, although I wouldn’t discourage anyone from going to university if they wanted to, would only increase the burden on the taxpayer.

Personally I think university is a good option for some students whilst I think it is tremendous waste of time for others. I think as a society we need to stop shoving university down the throats of young people. Apprenticeships are the new fashion and suit far more people than university ever will and the world of work is also a admirable and worthy route to take after GCSE’s and A-Levels. In this way, I suppose I am suggesting less people ‘should’ be going to university. Of course, who am I to tell someone to go to university? At the end of the day, everyone has the right to make their own choice.  But it should be made clear there are many options available to those leaving school.

But there are some issues with student fees apart from they are deemed, by many, to be callously extortionate in price. I feel any barrier to education, namely hefty student fees, should be gone with. The worst thing, in my opinion, is that lower income families avoid sending their children to university because of the price whilst high income families send their children to university because it is easily accessible to them. Unfortunately, however, I get the feeling this is the reality. If massively reducing student fees or even getting rid of them conclusively solved this issue, I would very much be inclined to support the idea.

In addition, the argument goes, that when a taxpayer funds another student going to university, they are not losing money without reparation, but in fact are gaining ‘capital’ by producing more teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers and any other high power job you can think of. Try not to think of it as funding an 18 year old to go out clubbing every night, but a long-term investment in the economy, the society in which you live in.

But I can’t but think people think that’s a bit farfetched. It simply is too much for some to stomach. Many are happy to pay extra in tax if they know it’s going straight to the NHS for example but shy away when it comes to university fees. Also, people seem to forget, students can apply for a student loan which in most cases, they never pay back. You hear a lot of scaremongering about how much student debt a graduate has after they leave university but in reality, in most cases, you pay back what you can without too much trouble.

But university, so I am told, is not just a place to study, but to fully grow up and be able to fend for yourself. It’s where most learn to budget, cook, clean and meet friends for life. Do we have a moral obligation to those students to teach them that they have to pay for the services they receive in life and not just rely on others? It seems harsh but maybe that argument has some merit.

Also, and this argument about student fees is often not discussed, as with private healthcare and public schools, there is a service being delivered at a premium – and in most cases, the outcome is a premium one too. This principle can also be applied to universities. There is some evidence that suggests by abolishing university fees, the standard of higher education being delivered would slowly decline. So we could not only find ourselves running universities at a loss, but also find ourselves with a worsening university system. Of course it is all very circumstantial, but it is something to bear in mind.

In my opinion, university fees are far too high, but I feel it would be too unfair to abolish all fees at the expense of the taxpayer. In practical terms, I think there needs to be a shift in what we encourage our young people to do after school and let them make up their own minds. I believe, as time goes on, less people will go to university than the number of people that are going now and that will open up the door to eliminating the extortionate costs of university in the future. I think there are many societal benefits of abolishing tuition fees but at this time, especially with Brexit looming, it would be too unfeasible. But I see no reason why fees could not be plausibly subsidized.

Until then, we need to ensure that every option post school; university, apprenticeships and post-leaver job placements are available to everyone, no matter the background to ensure there is not a atmosphere of elitism that has lingered until now.

Twitter: @jspencerboyce

Should We Have to Pay For University? | James Spencer-Boyce Should We Have to Pay For University? | James Spencer-Boyce Reviewed by Student Voices on 18:50 Rating: 5

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