You are on page 1of 2

How would you like to start your working life with up to £40k of debt?

This is a qu
estion NUS President Aaron Porter asked young people last month on the eve of th
e first wave of student protests.
It came as Lord Browne recommended the Government allow universities to charge u
p to £9,000 a year for tuition fees - a doubling of the current maximum that many w
ill take up due to the massive cuts in their budgets.
The answer any sensible person would give is, of course, 'no thank you' but you
could say that about anything related to money - nobody wants to stump up if the
y don't have to, it's human nature.
But let's take a good look at what exactly has sparked all the rage, hatred and
violence spilling out onto our streets because, I have to say, I have as yet to
hear a credible case against Lord Browne's proposals.
That Britain is in £4.3 trillion of debt is an inescapable fact. That this situatio
n is becoming unsustainable and desperate is another. That cuts in public spendi
ng must be made to alleviate this is the most important.
Higher education is expensive. If you want to give people a top-class education
you need money for good lecturers, high-tech facilities, research programmes and
so on.
The state can no longer afford to contribute the lion's share, meaning the peopl
e who actually use the service have to stump up.
Here are some more facts - the money can be lent to you, it has no interest adde
d and you only start paying it back in minuscule proportions once you can afford
to do so.
Much more favourable terms than if you want to buy a house, for example, where y
ou will borrowing well over £100,000 at often rather high and variable interest rat
es. Something most people manage to do without getting upset and smashing up pol
ice vans.
Furthermore, banks aren't particularly sympathetic to your ability to pay back a
loan. A student loan, on the other hand, is paid back in direct relation to inc
ome. If you earn under £21,000 and university clearly hasn't worked for you, chance
s are you'll never pay back a penny.
If you do earn over £21,000 then the chances are you'll barely notice the repayment
coming out of your account (at 9% of your income) and there isn't even any inte
rest added until you earn £41,000 at which point you are - well done! - very rich i
ndeed and really shouldn't mind.
Now, the NUS website isn't particularly useful at explaining why this is a bad t
hing. It seems to treat opposition as self-evident and thereby not worthy of deb
ate or mention.
But perhaps the most frequent, and bizarre, argument is that higher fees will so
mehow 'put poor students off' university altogether.
Where is the logic in this? For starters, the poorest students currently have th
eir fees paid by their local education authority, which will continue under the
new proposals. Secondly, regarding debt, they would only start paying it off onc
e they weren't poor anymore, so what is the issue?
There also appear to be some unusual moral objections.
Sally Hunt, the seemingly confused general secretary of the University and Colle
ge Union (UCU), for example, told the Guardian: "The extra fees being forced on
students and their families is money universities are being denied by government
. It's a simple case of robbing the public to plug a government funding gap."
Eh? Where does she think the money came from in the first place? The printing pr
ess? Magic? Taxation. A good a euphemism as any for robbing the public in my boo
This is, in fact, fairer because people who do not choose to go to university ar
e no longer paying for those who do.
It is clear that the thrust of the protests, particularly the violent ones, are
coming from ideologically motivated groups and individuals exploiting both ignor
ance over the proposals and the generally rebellious nature of youth.
It is worth asking the question, too, of why tuition fees were introduced in the
first place - so more young people could go to university. A vote-winner, sure.
But are we really better off for it?

Related Interests