As an ex-student (a student of politics no less), this whole tuition fees thing has been a massive interest. On the one hand, I sit here laughing that whilst the government and gone and charged me about £20,000 for my degree (£3,000 tuition fees x 3 years, and about £3,500 maintenance loan x 3 years). At the moment I pay back 11% of what I earn over £15,000 a year (so about £60 a month), and after 24 years of paying it off the rest of the debt will be written off. So whilst I might pay off the loan itself, I dont see how I could ever repay the interest they are adding to it! The debt isnt something I think about, I just know it’s there when my pay slip is £60 less than I would like (or £460 less, if you include tax!).
But on the other hand, I can completely understand with the student’s anger towards being charged £9,000 a year. In each of my years at University, I never had more than 12 hours a week of contact time, I had to buy all of my own books because there weren’t enough in the library, and I felt short-changed. I wouldnt change my degree for the world, and I loved some of the lecturers I had and the people I met, but £20,000 is a lot of money! I would definitely think twice about going if I was going to graduate with £32,000 debt and not get any more than I did a few years ago.
The main argument from Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems (which have made a fateful mistake in handling this like they have) is that graduates wont start repaying it until they earn £21,000 – well that’s all well and good, but doesnt that mean it’s going to take them longer to pay it off? And if the Government are going to write this off after 30 years, aren’t they just going to be stuck with a massive bill to write off in the near future? I just dont understand how merely increasing the fees and repayment threshold fixes an inherently broken system.
And to all the Lib Dems who have gone back on your word, I saw a lot of students supporting your party and everything you stood for at University. I doubt I can see half as many now. You might be fearful of the coalition, but I’d be more afraid of the prospect of re-election which isnt as far away as you’d hope.