Despite widespread criticism, the rise in tuition fees HAS NOT led to a decrease in the number of people applying to university.
Back in 2010, there was outrage when Nick Clegg broke his election promise by voting in favour of trebling tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year. The student body, largely responsible for getting the Liberal Democrats into government, felt cheated and misled and took to the streets in protest. However, recently published figures suggest that the legislation has not led to people being unable to go into further education, in fact quite the contrary. More people from disadvantaged backgrounds are applying and attending than ever, partly down to conditions put in the legislation by the Liberal Democrats.
- People pay less in monthly repayments than under Labour.
Despite the rise in overall fees, repayment levels are lower. This is because of Lib Dem negotiations which resulted in a change in the amount graduates have to be earning before they make any repayments. Under Labour, repayments started if you were earning £15,000 a year, now it’s £21,000. As the image below shows, at almost every wage level, monthly repayments are down, making graduates better off. In addition, the poorest 30% of graduates actually pay less overall than under the old system.
2. New incentives for the most disadvantaged and talented students
Liberal Democrats made sure the new system came with fee waivers, bursaries, a £50m National Scholarship programme and higher maintenance grants for people whose parents earn less than about £42,000.
3. University applications are up!
Despite the initial fall in applications directly after the increase in fees, in 2013 applications were up by 2.8% and are set to increase again in 2014. This shows that people have not been put off attending university and more people are trying to better themselves through further education.
4. If your salary goes above £21,000 and then drops below it, you pay nothing until it goes back up.
The new system is effectively a 30-year graduate tax, in that graduates repay 9% of their income over £21,000. If they lose their job or their income falls below £21,000, they will not pay anything. We did look at a full graduate tax, but we discovered foreign students or people who move abroad after university would be able to avoid repaying the cost of their tuition.
So there you have it, the facts on tuition fees. Graduates are actually better off as a result of the reform.
Of course, critics will say ‘But you broke your promise!’, and whilst they are not wrong it was not something that was taken lightly. You only need to see Clegg’s apology to see how seriously he took the decision. It can be viewed on youtube, along with the very amusing parody song. Have the Conservatives or Labour ever apologized for their broken promises? Whist we cannot condone the breaking of promises, the very fact we entered a coalition with a party that has such different views to ourselves, meant that their were going to have to be compromises. Without supporting the Tories with their legislation we wouldn’t have got any of ours through, including taking 26 million of the lowest earners out of tax, something David Cameron told us was impossible, and delivering hot, healthy free school meals to primary school children. We have not done everything we would’ve had we won a majority but we have put through important legislation that has reduced the effect of the Conservative’s ideological austerity measures whilst stabilising the economy and creating jobs and apprenticeships.