Students should be grateful for what they’ve got

If you were offered the chance to make a no-risk, high-gain, long-term investment, would you? Here are the terms:

  1. No payment up front, someone else will pay the initial fees, you will be billed on account at a very favourable interest rate (far better than you could even hope to get from a bank) and are guaranteed to have no real-term increase in the cost of your initial investment.
  2. You only have to settle the account after the investment has paid off and is generating an income. In fact this investment will not only pay for itself, it will (if it pays off) give you a raised income for the rest of your working life.
  3. If your investment does not work, don’t worry, you don’t have to pay anything at all. All the risk is being taken by other people on this one.
  4. If, after 30 years, you still haven’t paid off the cost of your investment, don’t worry. It will all be written off and you will be debt free with all the benefits of your investment your to take.

I wish I could get a deal like this from my ISA.

This, then is what all the student protests are about. They feel that the investments should just be given out freely to everyone who wants one. That may sound fair to you but is it not right that those students who go on to have high earning careers pay back some of the capital invested in them by the state? After all, is it not them who will see the most benefit from their investment? Nobody is seriously suggesting that all students will have to pay back £27,000 for their 3 years, only those for whom their time at university has been productive and beneficial to their career. Even with a degree, many students would struggle to get a job paying more than the £21,000 a year cut-off with no experience in their chosen sector, meaning they would be paying back precisely nothing. Yeah, really expensive.

 

Lets debunk some myths:

  • What about students from poorer backgrounds who can’t afford the fees?

 As stated above, they won’t have to pay them until they are earning enough to be able to start the repayments. Even once they reach the £21,000 starting point for repayments, the amount being paid back will be tiny, nowhere near enough to cover the full costs. Is paying back £1,000 a year until your early fifties such a huge expense when you will only be billed if you can afford it? Until now fees of over £3,000 a year have had to be paid up-front, surely that is more likely to put off poorer students than the proposed system?

  • What about all the students with rich parents?

 Won’t they have an advantage by being able to pay the fees early and become debt free younger? The current proposals are that early repayment will be possible but will cost you 5% more than the standard contributions taken from a monthly salary. So yes, they will but it will cost them even more, further contributing to the SLC (student loans company) and helping to cover the costs of graduates who have not earnt enough to pay back their fees.

 

The real tragedy of the new scheme has been the systematic mis-reporting taking place throughout the media world and the seeming inability of the so-called ‘future’ (god help us) to find out the truth for themselves. The facts are out there and I cannot see why or how anyone could have even the slightest problem with them, unless they are simply envious of the generation putting these plans in place, a generation who had free access to university. “They had it, why can’t we?” ‘They’ presumably being the MPs running the show. I’ll tell you why, too many people now go to university for the current taxation system to fund them. Hardly anyone went to university 30 years ago, certainly not anyone who wasn’t academically gifted. It must be considered a good thing that the aspirations of an entire generation of ‘working class’ children have been raised to such an extent that they now expect, and are indeed expected, to stay in education until the age of 21. However, the increased costs of educating these people, combined with the costs of supporting them and the loss of their economic input in the workplace between the ages of 16-21 have affected the treasury to an extent that it is no longer viable to keep the old system. A new revenue stream must be found. Although this need not necessarily be directly from the students themselves, if it was from other sources, it would still need to be paid in full by taxation. There’s no getting away from the cold, hard fact that governments have no money of their own. Almost all government funding comes from taxation of different forms, if the government pays for it, we all pay for it. Why should the users who benefit most from the service not pay a bit more than those who benefit less?

One of the positive outcomes proposals I can foresee is the renewal of interest in more academic degrees, especially science and engineering. Why would you pay £27,000 for a degree in ‘History of Art’ or ‘Media Studies’ if it is unlikely to help you in the workplace? There are more degrees awarded in Media Studies each year than there are total jobs in the media nationwide. If you go on to a successful career in another sector your degree costs will still have to be paid back, it must be a better option to choose a degree that endows you with easily transferable skills. True, all degrees give you a certain level of ‘life skills’ that can help you in any job, all the more reason then to ensure your high level of employability by getting as many skills as you can with your degree (assuming of course that your degree is not for a set pre-chosen career path such as medicine or law).

The fundamentals of this argument are that the costs of educating and supporting students throughout their university life will have to be paid by someone. Whether you feel the burden should be spread evenly across the taxpaying public (e.g. NHS) or if you feel the users and beneficiaries of the service should contribute to the costs they create (e.g. Transport infrastructure) is a matter of opinion, unlikely to be swayed by me. What many of the protesting students seem to have missed is the cause of the change in policy. Without having the privileges of university education available to all based on merit rather than family wealth, no change would be necessary. All modern teenagers should be grateful for the wealth of career choices available to them, choices not available during their parents education. You may not want to pay for yourself but don’t confuse having these fees with restricting access.

Remember, it’s a no-lose investment.

Thanks for Reading.

Rowan

All comments welcome, I’ll answer as many as I can.

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