Friday, 14 January 2011

Student Fees


People often ask me "Dan? What is your view on the student fees situation?" Well, finally, I will tell you!

Uncap them. Uncap them completely. There are a few separate issues at play here, and almost all of them would be fixed by uncapping fees entirely whilst maintaining the current funding system of loans to people.

The system as it has now been changed to, means that if you earn an average of £28k over your life, you'll pay exactly the same overall as you would now. If you earn less than that, you pay less. If you earn more than that - which is likely, really; remember, this is an average - you pay more. So we end up in a situation where the rich (relative, but....) pay more and the poor pay less. And yet this is considered regressive...

Another funny thing is that people who are against the changes often consider a graduate tax as an effective alternative. This current system IS a graduate tax! If you don't earn anything, you don't pay anything? If you earn more, you pay more? If you don't pay anything, no one hounds you? All of those are equally applicable to to the new system as they are to a graduate tax. It's no different, in my mind, to an income tax, except it has a ceiling. I know that next year I'm going to pay roughly £11k in deductions from my income. Does this mean I'm in £11k of debt? No, because until I get paid my monthly salary, I won't have to pay any tax, and when I do it's taken immediately from me. Just like my student loan repayments. It really is no different.

BUT I want the fees uncapped. Why? Because at the moment lots of science and engineering departments are closing down. This isn't because people don't want to do them, it's because they cost a lot to teach. This has two effects. Firstly, it means they can't get enough funding as the caps are a funding straight jacket. The new system doesn't give them a great deal money, so they're still in the same position is just now the students are paying for it rather than the government, by and large. This means they close. But the second effect of is is that, despite the caps being merely caps, it means everyone pays the maximum precisely BECAUSE universities cant get enough money. Humanities subjects cost a great deal less to teach than science subjects. In a free'ish Market (ie uncapped fees) universities wouldn't need to gouge History and Geography students in order to subsidise the more expensive degrees, so the cost of those would go down (relative).

So there we go. As long as the same funding exists as now, there's no need for anyone to not go because of their income. If people have a problem with the cost of the burden this will put on people in the future, they should consider income tax. Under the new system, I'd pay 9% on everyone above £21,000. Also, I'd pay 20% on everything over £6,500. Also, I'd pay 20% on top of every non-essential purchase. And road tax, and petrol, alcohol and tobacco duty, and council tax, and and and and. I think taxes are way, way too high. I think a lot of them should be gotten rid of. I don't think the one that's actually directly related tl what you take from the state is one that should go.


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