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Cutting tuition fees: A student’s view

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Cutting tuition fees : A student’s view

Posted on: 18/09/2019 | Written by: Harry Clueit, Student Ambassador

As universities around the UK prepare to welcome a new influx of freshers, Harry Clueit, an Accounting student at the University of Liverpool, gives his perspective on the recently proposed reforms to tuition fees.

Cutting tuition fees: A student’s view

I was born in 1997, just one year before tuition fees were introduced across the UK. Back then, students only had to pay £1,000, which is a far cry from the £9,250 many of us face having to pay today. Tuition fees remain a prominent put off for many students contemplating the prospect of university. However, recent proposals by the government suggest that a cut to tuition fees may happen in the not too distant future. The question is, will any of us truly benefit from this?

What are the proposals?

The government’s eye-catching headline statement is that maximum tuition fees should be cut to £7,500. The review also plans to offer:

  • Non-repayable maintenance grants of up to £3,000, for both university and higher-level technical courses
  • More funding for further education and more access to loans for students on vocational courses
  • A “Lifelong learning loan allowance” designed to support students of all ages.

However, the proposition also indicates that there would be changes to the way loans are repaid:

  • Repayments would start when graduates earn a lower amount of £23,000, rather than the current amount of £25,725.
  • Any unpaid debts would not be cancelled until 40 years after graduating, rather than the current 30 years deadline.

What might this mean for students?

Those of us that go on to be high earners would most likely benefit from these changes. This is because with greater income we could pay off the smaller value of loans proposed at a faster rate. As a result, we would not have to pay as much interest as those who take longer to pay. However, for those of us who follow career paths with lower salaries, the changes to the way loans are repaid could leave us worse off. Under the current repayment system, any outstanding loans after 30 years are written off, meaning that some people may never have to pay off their debts. But, with plans to extend the repayment period to 40 years, this same group would have to pay off considerably more.

My younger brother has been recently attending university open days and is looking into a variety of courses to find one which best suits him. The changes proposed could reduce the number of courses offered by universities and restrict the options available to him and other prospective students. This is because the long-term aim of these plans is to encourage students to choose courses which are considered “high value” and that will provide them with higher earnings in the job market. Universities may also receive direct funding from the government for courses which are expensive to deliver in order to fill the void caused by the planned reduction in tuition fees. This would give the government greater influence over the courses being offered as they would seek to promote courses which provide more value to the economy. This reduction in flexibility could put more students off from going to university.

My opinion

A poll from YouGov showed that the idea of lowering fees was backed by 59% of respondents, proving that, in balance, it is a popular proposal. Ultimately, my goal from university is to get a good degree and to use that as a platform to build a career that pays a good salary. Therefore, as it is my aim to be a high earner, these changes would be beneficial for me. However, I know many people may not prioritise earnings and would rather follow career paths with lower salaries but that may offer other benefits, such as a better work-life balance. Those that take this route may suffer as a result of the proposed changes. Whether these plans will be beneficial to students or not then will depend on the individual. There is also the question, of course, of whether these proposed plans will be passed or not. Nothing is likely to be legislated until 2021 at the earliest; and, if we have learnt anything from our current government, it is that anything can happen – government plans of any sort are susceptible to being quickly and dramatically changed.

 

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