Tuition Fees Unrepayable

A report released on the 18th of November by the Higher Education Commission, an independent think tank, found that two-thirds of English students will not be able to pay off their student loans. This compares to just 25% before the tuition fees were increased in 2012 by the current coalition government.

The Commission ‘fundamentally questions’ the sustainability of a system that charges students with fees that are higher than they are able to pay off. As it is now, a loan is written off by the government if it has not been paid back within 30 years. This is the ‘worst of both worlds’ the report warns, as the government effectively funds higher education by writing off student debt instead of investing in grants. The Commission is also worried that many middle-income earners, especially public sector workers, teachers and health professionals – who rely on a degree to get a job – will be haunted by debt for a large portion of their working lives.

The release of the report paradoxically coincided with the recent news that saw the last state in Germany abolishing tuition fees, where a minister commented that they do not want ‘higher education which depends on the wealth of the parents.’ The National Union of Students has called for a free educational system funded by progressive taxation, a system that apart from Germany, is being used in the Nordic countries. Even the debt of students in the US – a country often seen as the epitome of large student debts – is lower than in the UK, averaging about £21,000 compared to £44,000 (post-2012 reforms), explained by the widespread use of grants and scholarships.

With a general election coming up this spring, the question is a vote-catcher, although no major UK party has a free education policy the moment. The question is likely to remain contentious but whoever is willing to tackle the issue will receive a lot of praise from students.

[Fred Lindahl]

1 Comment

  1. I go to college in the United States. I have an associates degree from a community college which cost me about $20,000 all together and now I’m in a 4 year university now and it’s my first semester. The semester cost me a little over $4,000 and I commute so if I lived on campus it would be and extra 2,000 and I don’t have a meal plan which would be about another $2,000. With that said, I really wish education was free. I’m a student who wants to be there and i am dedicated to my school work. It upsets me how in the United States people get free education from the government and they don’t even want to be there or take it seriously. I’ve known several people who were on welfare, who didn’t work, who had their education paid for and they wound up dropping or flunking out. I’m not sure if they had to pay anything of the funding back, but it gets really frustrating when I think about it.
    I really hope the education system and tuition costs change for the better. The great news is that we are the future! We have the power to change it!

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