Stevie Martin | Staff Writer | Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Does It Matter If Ed Miliband Slashes Tuition Fees? No, It Really Doesn't

The Debrief: It sounds, on the surface, like a great idea - but is it actually helping?

Ed Miliband is set to pledge to do an anti-Nick-Clegg later this week. By this we mean he’s said he’ll slash tuition fees by £3,000 in a bid to make a university education more readily available for all and get loads of young people voting for him.

Who know’s if he’ll actually keep to it if elected, but no doubt Nick Clegg is probably lying flat on the floor of his Shame Cave (covered in headlines from the 2010 tuition fee hike from £3k to £9k) listening to Chris Martin whine Fix You right now. And if you lean closely, he’s saying something about 'repayments' and 'they're actually in an OK situation'. And just maybe he has a point. 

You see, when everyone kicked off about the tuition fee hike, very few of the shouting young people (as pictured under placards that read ‘NICK CLEGG IS A BIG TWAT’) noted that you don’t need to pay anything back until you start earning £21,000 (way better than the previous benchmark of £16,910). Oh, and few people noticed that, if you don’t pay it back within 30 years, any remaining debt is cleared. They were too busy staring at the £9,000 figure and screaming. 

Labour’s proposal is based on the concept that the training and education of young people is at the centre of the UK productivity crisis (something that we agree with), and that the loss of income for the unis will be countered by proposed pension tax relief for the wealthy. Stats by the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that the employment has declined among 20-somethings, so we’re all on board that something has to be done – but fingers crossed Ed is also going to address the other issues, that are – if anything – more important than just lowering the fees. 

Charly, who graduated in 2009 – and so was part of the Class Of £3k A Year – reckons that this proposal is just a cynical way to blind young people into voting. ‘I was on less than £18k last year and I still had to pay my student loan back. It’s not about the amount you pay at uni, it’s about how much you pay back and when you start paying back,’ she told The Debrief. ‘I wouldn’t mind [being on the 2010 system] because it’d mean my shit salary wouldn’t get eaten into by the student loan. Yeah, I may only paid back a couple of hundred quid, but when you’re working for that little money, a couple of hundred quid is the difference between food and no food.’

Basically, slashing tuition doesn’t necessarily make anything any better. We want to know about paying it back, and about how long it’ll take to pay it back, and when we have to start paying it back. And, more importantly than that, we want the bursaries and the grants schemes looked at so people who can’t afford to go at all (and that's not because of tuition fees, that’s for everything else) are still in with a shot. Rather than blinding us with tuition fee chat because the Tories are going after the old people vote, and you need to target another demographic, so are going for the youth vote, which is how it feels.

Just 12% of young people have said they'll be voting in the upcoming election – and we wonder why people are throwing cursory bones at us in the hope we get all excited. The better our turnout in the polling stations, the better the chances that someone will properly address the uni crisis. But in the meantime, we’ll be watching Labour’s announcement with interest. 

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Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

 

Tags: Pure Politics