In 2015, I said that I am pretty fast at coming to an opinion over things and usually equally quick at changing my mind, but on tuition fees it seems I am pretty committed to my view.
I won’t pretend that each month, when I look at my payslip I’m not slightly annoyed at seeing money disappearing off to pay back my student loan. I am.
But I’m also still not sure there’s anything wrong with a system which means that I got an expensive education and only have to pay for it now that it’s making me a profit. I am the first person in my family to go to unveristy, I’m not from a well-off background and I had to work to pay my rent while I was at University despite getting the full maintenance grant at the time.
Student loans don’t appear on your credit record, don’t really affect your ability to get other loans because of their size, have fixed repayments regardless of the interest rate and only due when you’re earning above a certain amount plus they get written off when you turn 60 whether you’ve paid a penny or not.
But what I said in my post back in 2015 should be the solution is still what I think should be the solution now. And what Damian Hinds said today is almost there.
We still need to remember why we educate people
Having a good education system is important for two reasons (and probably many more). Firstly, having a better educated population means we’re a better educated country which can achieve more, and secondly because higher education allows graduates (like me) to do jobs that pay more and ‘climb the ladder’. So, because both the individual and society benefits both should also pay.
But what the current system ignores (although it’s unclear if it was ever meant to) was that all degrees are not equal in what they contribute to society. My own degree (English Language and Media) is worth less to society than, say, a scientist or a doctor and worth more to me, because it’s allowing me to do a job I love.
So, with a ‘variety’ of fees – as Damian Hinds MP said today might happen following the third review of fees in 12 months – was what I proposed when I wrote about this in 2015, because with a bit of price variation we could encourage a greater number of people to become educated in subjects where we’re short of experts.
We could even go as far as making it free to do certain higher qualifications if we’re running short of a particular profession.
f you want to complete a degree in a subject we don’t ‘need’ you to study then you’re welcome to do just that, but that’ll be £55,000 in ‘debt’. On the other hand, if you fancy becoming a doctor then how about society pays for it all – perhaps with some conditions that you stick about in the UK.
There’s no need for any of this ‘money’ to change hands until a graduate is earning too, just as now. So there’s no poor people locked out of higher education but a substantial return, and ultimatley more people graduating in useful subjects.
On this, like so many other things, we constantly kick the can down the road. As a result, we’ve ended up with a complicated system which clouds our ability to make rational and logical decisions about what’s good for us as a whole.