Labour should have looked at results in Scotland before launching their expensive student fees policy

Surely Karl Marx and the evidence of failure in Scotland can’t be wrong?

Perhaps Labour simply didn’t do their research on their student fees bribe?

Hettie Obrien explains at The Spectator:

In a letter of 1875, Karl Marx wrote that making higher education free would mean ‘defraying the cost of education of the upper classes from the general tax receipts’. He had a point. Free education wasn’t really ‘free’ at all. Conversely, fees would generate funding to subsidise tuition for the less well-off.   

Student loans have become a hot political battleground. Jeremy Corbyn argues education should be ‘free’; Theresa May hits back with plans to raise the student debt repayment threshold and to freeze fee levels. But instead of meeting dissatisfaction with populist notions or piecemeal policies, politicians would do better to instil confidence in the system by making student-loan terms transparent and sticking to their promises.

There is no such thing as free. Someone pays…in this instance it is the poor who pay, contrary to conventional wisdom.

The facts are familiar: £9,250 in annual fees and a 6.1 per cent interest rate mean students rack up thousands in compound interest before they graduate. Borrowing money has always been morally charged; Germans have the same word for debt, ‘schuld’, as they do for ‘guilt’ or ‘fault’, and being saddled with so much before you’ve even started working is a bitter pill.

Yet the emotional and financial effects of debt get mixed up. Opposition promises to scrap tuition fees exemplify this confusion, courting student votes with a policy that could actually hamper access to higher education. For young people, the fee debate concerns the ultimate prize: making university free. But taking a closer look at the system shows that it’s not the baby that needs changing, but the bathwater.

What would happen if tuition fees were scrapped? Yes, a weight would lift from the shoulders of many students. But the effect on student numbers — particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds — is less clear. Scotland provides a roadmap for how this works in practice. Lucy Hunter Blackburn, a former Scottish civil servant who worked on higher education funding policy, describes free tuition as a feelgood middle-class policy. Far from being a beacon of higher education, Scotland offers a lesson in how scrapping fees can actually entrench inequality, favouring those from middle-class backgrounds who don’t need additional support. The impact of the policy confirms Marx’s thoughts about free tuition; the well-off in Scotland are four times more likely to enter university than their poorer counterparts, compared to 2.4 times in England.

This will happen here too. If National are smart they will start assessing the numbers in election year.

The policy will not work as intended, it will almost certainly be more expensive, and National will lack the courage to undo it all. Sigh…politics never changes sometimes.

 

-The Spectator


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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