The National Youth Parliament held a debate in the House of Lords last month, and it was broadcast on BBC Parliament and you can catch it on iPlayer here. The debate was used to decide which three of six motions would constitute their national campaigns for the year. The first of these to be discussed is a campaign to abolish tuition fees.
The speeches and debate are very good and I found them interesting, but I am really quite concerned by some of the mis-information they seem to have come across. One speaker seems to think that she won’t be able to go to university because her parents can’t afford to take out a loan to pay her tution fees. Another quotes tuition fees as being £3000 per term (which they are not yet, at least.) Nobody stands up to correct them. This is really worrying.
Fees aren’t paid back until AFTER you graduate and are earning. Loans are given sperately of loans and living costs. Your parents are expected to top up your living loan to the maximum available; everyone gets between 75 and 100%, and your parents are expected to pay the difference between what you get and the maximum, which is income assessed and somewhere between £0 and £1500. That is all. Your parents don’t pay a penny towards your tuition, and nor do you until you graduate. I am really, really worried that these young people think they’re going to be paying up front.
Anyway, it’s not the tuition fee they should be scared of; £3000 a year is peanuts compared to the University of Birmingham’s new halls, which cost up to an utterly disgusting £5975 per annum. I believe it’s everyday living costs that are the real access issue, not tuition fees. Yes, tuition fees are massive, and yes they are scary and deter far too many people; but you only pay them back when you can afford to. It’s the cost of living that is the real, unreported problem; a student loan is simply not enough. The scare stories about not being able to afford uni are misplaced; much as I hate tuition fees, I’ll worry about them when I come to paying them; right now I’m much more concerned about keeping a roof over my head and food in my cupboard in the short term. Tuition fees do not affect student, only graduates. The cost of living, rent and the woefully inadequate student loan- this is what matters to students.
I love the enthusiasm of the Youth Parliament, and I think their campaign for youth concessions on public transport is fantastic, but it seems an education campaign is needed on what the finanicial issues of student life really are, for the benefit of all prospective students.