Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Previous thoughs on tuition fees

This is something I've had sitting around in a notebook for a while now, having originally written it around the back end of November, before the tuition fee changes were made. Just for a bit more context, I wrote this while sitting in a Starbucks at Fulham Broadway station, waiting for my dad to turn up for our tradition pre-match Nandos, before going to Stamford Bridge. I pretty much proceeded to ramble through most of what I wrote with my dad, which is when I discovered that he was a bit more of a lefty than he lets on, a nice surprise I'm sure you will all agree.

This may make it seem a bit dated (I will add some reflective bits, but it is pretty much directly from my book to here) but I wanted to put it out there anyway, in particular the idea of alternate ways to raise money, as an alternative to cuts and heaping debt onto the people rather than the government. Here goes:

"Oh, so the first protests of the coalition have happened. Only took a few months. Solid work guys. What makes this even more impressive from a Lib-Dem point of view is that it was from one of the groups that supported them - the students.

Now, I'll come back to that in a minute, but first I have to admit that I wasn't at the demo this morning [the first of the main anti-tuition fee demonstrations] or at the clashes that followed - and I'll let others discuss whether or not the escalation and police response helped or not. What happened later in the day must not be allowed to detract from is is the real reason so many people marched in the first place [despite the best efforts of the media, and the police].

Back on point: many who are either out of university, or have never attended, have chosen to describe students within the stereotype of lazy cheapskates who drink and party and stagger into the light several years later with a piece of paper and still no idea what they are doing. While some of that does happen, and there are some people who stay at uni as long as possible so to avoid having to grow up, I have also met plenty of students, both at RBC and other schools, who are hardworking, driven people, fully aware of the amount of debt they are accruing, but willing to take on that burden so that they can follow their ambition, their dream or their passion. For example at Bruford, I did not meet a single person who decided to go through the audition process to become an actor just for kicks, or for the fun of it and the social life - they did it because they want to become actors. The idea that budget cuts from privileged ideologues leave a solid number of graduates unable to pursue their chosen career is a travesty.

What is even worse than that situation, worse than the potential for further cuts, worse than Conservatives in parliament cheering at the Chancellor's gleeful attacks on those who need the states help more than anyone else, worse than all of that is the arrogance of politicians who attended universities at a time when it cost them nothing, deciding that in order to continue your academic career you have to have been born into, or raised into, money. Education ought to be a right afforded to every citizen, not a privileged for those who can afford it. This kind of policy may well have been feared from a Tory administration, but what is hard to swallow is their Lib-Dem appendages. That those very same Lib-Dems actively campaigned on a pledge to fight rises in tuition fees is all the more shocking. I'm sorry Mr Clegg, but saying that it is one of those things that gets lost as part of a coalition just doesnt wash. If it is something that you might possibly consider compromising on, don't make it the cornerstone of your election campaign - you have successfully ruined any chance your party had at being 'the honest party'. Not only have you lied but you have gone against what your own party once believed in. Why else would one of your PPCs join Labour and cite that as one of their main reasons? You have sold out, you have sold out your party, and you have sold out many of the people who once believed in you. All so you could sit at the top table. Congratulations.

Leaving aside the lack of progressiveness in the Coalition plans for education funding, what is also surprising is the short term-ism that their policy demonstrates. This is shown by this: if you pay for people to be educated, then the theory goes that they get into higher paying jobs. This means they earn more money. When they have higher income, they are taxed a higher amount than those on lower incomes [that is the theory at least, though with the HMRC collection issues and the tax avoidance unchecked there are some problems]. The only problem with this theory is that it takes a generation to come into play, and it appears that this government is not looking for the long term benefit for the nation, rather the short term benefits for the few.

In the current climate of deficit reduction, and with absolutely no schooling in economics, so I appreciate I may miss some details, here is my alternative idea: add 2% onto income tax. This may seem regressive, and its hard to get elected by raising taxes, but hear me out. In order to counteract the impact this would have on lower income households, I also propose a raising of the tax-free allowances., so that for those less fortunate, the higher rate is paid on a smaller percentage of their earnings. I think that they would be able to save money, and also, hopefully, some of those families who need benefits in order to make ends meet might be less needy of them. But like I said, I have no grounding in economics, and may just be being naive."

So that is what I wrote back in November. Some of it is a little dated, and with the looming impact of the disability benefits cuts, it seems like something of a moot point. But if you have made it this far, well done, and apologies for taking up so much of your time.

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