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An Increase in Tuition Fees is Actually Better for Equality 

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.


  1. So you don’t understand that the spectre of crushing debt puts many off college and it would actually be CHEAPER to give grants rather than loans?
    The biggest problem is that virtually anyone can get a loan so colleges accept people who don’t stand a chance of passing because they’re a cash cow. Paid for by the tax payer.

    You have to have a special kind of personality to have £30k in debt and not feel oppressed by it.


  2. Harvey Tomes says:

    To answer the first point. My argument is that the “spectre of crushing debts” should not be putting students off as I feel that it is heavily misunderstood. The debt is actually not like any other debt for three main reasons; you pay it back based on a fair grading system that is directly linked to the earnings one makes per year and secondly, the debt is wiped if you do not pay it off by a certain date meaning one does not have to actually worry about paying it all off and thirdly, it will not be held against you in the same way a private debt is. This means that one should not be worried about the debt. If you are scared you will not pay it off as you will not be paid enough; you pay back what you can and then it is cancelled for you; to me this is hardly a terrifying concept. The debt is less an amount that MUST be paid back, but is a sum that allows for paying back up to the total amount along a scale.

    Is it cheaper to give grants? Well with some basic caluclations one can work out that this statement is entirely untrue unless you mean by the fact that more people are going to university after the loan scheme than before (which I suspect was not your line of reasoning). If one gives a grant of £50,000 to a student then one has spent £50,000. If one gives a loan and then recieves £28,000 of that back over time and you pay off the reamining £22,000, it is not difficult to see which option actually cost you more.

    If anyone can get a loan, that is because they’re students and the system is not designed to froce everyone to pay back every penny then earn back. If people don’t pass they are still obliged to pay back how much they have been loaned. Forgive me if I misunderstand you – but you seem to complain of the lack of grants for students based on the fact loans are putting off students, but then complain that people are being given loans when they potentially won’t pass university on the grounds of expense and their becoming a “cash cow”. This seems potentially hypocritical because surely, if people take loans, they’re less likely to do so and waste the money wishfully than if they were merely given it by the state for free? Therefore grants are actualy worse for this issue than loans.

    My argument, as outlined, is that the form of loan means one should not be oppressed by it due to the way it works. It is essentially a graduate tax with loan like qualities. £30,000 of private debt that can mean a loss of your home and assets is indeed terrifying. A student loan that can be paid off for you and you pay back relative to what you earn, which is allowed to fluctuate, is somewhat less threatening.


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