The tuition fees system in the UK seems to be the single most misunderstood policy in the last century. It drives hordes of angry, protesting and often left-wing students to ironically complain about what is perhaps the most proportional and progressive policy in the country. The current loan scheme hits the wealthiest graduates the most and yet it is the socialists who bemoan tuition fee rises as barriers to education for the poorest in society?
To attempt to explain the tuition fee loan system is probably necessary before I become accused of “enjoying watching poor people pay what they cannot afford”. The loan may technically be a “loan”, but in actuality, it is in fact one of the best designed taxes in the world (which people should stop attacking Nick Clegg for). You are given money, like a loan, but there are two very important distinctions. These distinctions are why I love tuition fees in the UK; the debt is wiped by the government if you have not paid it back by a certain time and it is also directly proportional to what you earn. This is inseparable from the fact that fees are technically going “up”, as only 27% of students actually pay off their loans fully, which means that the wealthiest are paying more tax to the government in return for an educational service, and the poorer students are paying less. The reason why this is so important is that this system has major and most certainly positive ramifications for the proposed rises in tuition fees. By increasing the fees, poorer graduates will pay NO MORE “tax” than they were before, as they were never going to pay it back before anyway. In an ironic turn for the students complaining, it is actually going to make zero difference to poorer graduates from university.
The people who should actually be complaining are wealthy students; by increasing the fees, the percentage of people who actually pay their loan off will be going down, meaning that it will actually be wealthier students paying more for their education as they can afford to pay off the added debt. If you want to tax bankers more; increase tuition fees, if you want to tax poorer graduates at the same rate as before, increase tuition fees.
I have to admit – I think free university education is actually unfair as a policy. 48% of the population go to university, obviously meaning that a majority do not. Is it fair to make a majority subsidise the education of people who will actually benefit from this education, going on to earn more than the majority do? I have to pay back all my “loans” of £38,000 or so and I do so happily; what I pay back will be based on my future earnings and not those of my family, and I do not think it is fair others, who will not attend university themselves, should subsidise my education. It is under the same logic I still endorse maintenance loans for poorer students rather than grants as, if they become wealthy, they will pay the money back and, if they do not, they will not.
The tuition fees policy is a great example of the state enabling everyone to go the university and then pay progressively for the service they received. If you want to tackle inequality, as well as Government spending, you should support a rise in tuition fees.