Alex condemns fiasco of student fees hike - and urges the young to vote

This week’s budget was not a budget for young people.

Its major beneficiaries were the retired and those coming up to retirement.

The week also brought news of yet another Coalition fiasco which will disadvantage students and cost the coutnry as a whole.

It has emerged that the tripling of tuition fees – on which the LibDems sold their souls in 2010 – will contribute little or nothing to saving our University  system.


Labour’s Liam Byrne asked a question this week about student loans.

‘To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what recent estimate he has made of the RAB charge on student loans.’

For those of us not in the know with Government acronyms, RAB charge stands for ‘Resource, accounting and budgeting’ charge. Put simply, it is the ‘write-off figure’ – the point at which the government loses more under the new tripled £9000 fees than it would have saved by sticking with the old £3000. The reason why tripled fees may actually bring in less is that the government has to pay out the money to cover those fees in loans. It then recovers the money later in taxes on graduates. But if students are unable to pay back their ever-higher loans over their working lifetimes – then the government loses. That point is reached when 48.6% of graduates fail to earn enough to pay back their loans. Current estimates are very close to that figure.

In his answer David Willetts to Liam Byrne admitted that the ‘RAB charge’ was now approaching the level at which the government becomes the net loser. Willetts admitted his current estimate is 45%. And he’s been revising that figures upwards – dramatically – over the last months alone.

When tuition fees were tripled in 2010 the estimate of non-repayment was 28%. Four months ago it was revised upwards from 35% to 40%. And now its been revised upwards again.

David Willetts concluded

‘We will continue to review our estimates’. And well he might.

Liam Byrne responded

This is fresh evidence that our university finance system is turning into a money pit.

The system is now haemorrhaging cash that will never be repaid and reinvested in the next generation.

 It’s high time David Willetts came out and told us exactly how much this strung together system is costing the taxpayer, rather than dress it up with clever accounting tricks.

First, he tells us that the RAB charge is 35%, then 40% and now it hits 45%.

It’s time to call a halt to this descent into chaos. Their funding model fails the sector, it fails our students and it fails those whose hard earned wages continue to prop it up.’

Rachel Wenstone, vice-president of the National Union of Students,

said the new figures showed tuition fees were "an experiment that has well and truly failed . . These revelations blow apart ministers' claims that £9,000 fees would save public money. This confirms our long-held view that the changes were ideologically driven. The government's system costs more than what it replaced and represents a real turning point in the debate about the future of higher education funding."

Then there is just the small matter, as Hugh Muir pointed out in the Guardian, of the morality of creating a generation of debtors. And this in the wake of the biggest global financial collapse of our time – to which the greed of bankers and the indebtedness of individuals were major contributors.

Behind Willett’s revisions, of course, there is another reality.

As Alex has put it.

“They are a sign of chaotic financing of Higher Education.

But they are also a sign of the problems for young people in our society – including for young graduates entering a job market where they are increasingly unlikely to get ‘graduate’ jobs or to earn ‘graduate salaries’.’

You also have to consider the huge cuts to University funding which was meant to be made up by increased fee income for Universities, what will happen to quality and resources at Universities if fee income is reduced.

The budget, like most of what Osborne does, was not great statesmanship. It was not a national interest approach, either. It was pretty crudely angled at votes.

This week’s budget was blatantly a pre-election budget – the group most likely to vote for Osborne’s party were the group who did well.

The budget, like the fees fiasco, have many messages.

But one of them is the need for young people to vote.

Alex again ‘I urge young people to make sure they are registered to vote – and then to get out and use it otherwise polices will always be aimed at helping older people who do vote in large numbers.’

Until they do that, and in numbers comparable to the older generation, politicians like George Osborne will continue to ignore them






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