All The Wrong Reasons

After debates over fees at Election time, Chris Baker points out some flaws in the argument.

The recent debates surrounding fees has brought the issue back into student conversation and rekindled my frustration at one particular argument used against the gargantuan price tag on UK higher education. Although I don’t recall this being explicitly mentioned by any candidates so far, it is something you come across time and time again and it runs like this: The fee increase is bad, because now some people can’t afford to go to University.

No. Wrong. Inarguably wrong. Wrong for the simple reason that from the applicant’s point of view the financial process of starting University is not going to change.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the difference this makes. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not being lumped with a titanic bill to pay in order to go to University. Every student eligible will pay the money back when they are earning above a threshold of £21,000 per year. This makes all the difference. This means the new system cannot and does not discriminate based on background- because it only starts to eat at your earnings when you are actually in a position to pay it back. You can appreciate how important it is to understand the difference here. People keep coming back to this totally fallacious point and achieve nothing but showing their total lack of understanding for what is going on.

There is a caveat to this message. A caveat made of fifty foot glowing neon letters and it is this: I think the fee increase is wrong. I agree with the vast, vast majority of students that it is too high and enough of a burden that it will overshadow students long after they have donned their cloaks and mortar boards. I won’t go into detail on whether or not the idea is practical or workable or what the alternatives are, but I will say that the “people can’t afford it” argument pitched by many a well-meaning student is not only untruthful, but damaging to their position.

You may be of the opinion that the fees debate is over, or you may feel it is still worth talking about: but any time you find yourself in a conversation about the “F” word on the side of lowering Higher Education prices, consider picking one of the many many other valid and reasonable arguments available to support your position, while leaving this one well alone.