FREE University? "Cut Student Debt and Help Poorest", Says Top Bods

Elizabeth Elden
17th November 2017, 12:00 PM

A new study has suggested that students from wealthy backgrounds should pay more so that lower income students can go to uni for free, but is a degree worth the money?

Some students will be able to go to university for free if the plans are put in place. Image: Pixabay

Students from high income households should pay over £12,000 in tuition fees, while those from the lowest income households shouldn’t pay anything, a study suggests.

Analysis carried out by London Economics for Sutton Trust found that 45% of student debt will never be repaid under the current system, and called for another system to be put in place.

This means-tested system could cut average student debt by a third, with most disadvantaged by the current system benefitting most.

Under the current tuition fees system, the poorest 40% of students have debts averaging over £51,000, while the richest 20% have debts of only £38,400.

Sir Peter Lampi, the Trust’s Chairman, said, “It’s an absolute scandal that the poorest students graduate with the most debt.

“We are proposing that fees should be means tested and maintenance grants reintroduced so that those from low income families incur the lowest debts.”

The proposed changes by the Trust would see those with a household income of under £25,000 have free tuition, and those from households with an income of over £100,000 paying £12,250.

Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, said, “It is right that the government continues to consider how the fees and funding system can be optimised.

“However, we should be mindful of the drawbacks of any system that depends on funding from the Treasury given the many other demands.”

Not everyone is happy with the proposed changes.

Former student Issy Riddy said, "Personally I think it's not fair. The graduate will be left with the higher debts, and it's not ever certain the parents will want to help financially, which is the assumption made.

"I also feel like it could cause a lot of social resentment."

PhD student Debbie Elizabeth, said, "I think free education should be a human right. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of means testing, especially based on a parents income."

Changes have been made recently to the current system.

Earlier this month, Theresa May announced that graduates will not have to repay student loans until they are earning £25,000, instead of £21,000.

The average student has £46,000 of debt when they graduate

Currently, English and EU students pay up to £9,250 a year for tuition fees, and can get government loans to cover some living costs.

A Department for Education spokesperson said, “Students from the lowest-income households who started their courses this year have access to the largest ever amounts of cash-in-hand support for their living costs.”

Tuition fees hugely rose in 2012, going from a maximum of £3,000, to a maximum of £9,000.

This caused a significant drop in student numbers, going from 342,000 in 2011, before the rise, to 272,000 in 2017 according to UCAS.

Despite higher fees, many still think that going to uni is worth it.

What do current University students think?

Latest Deals member and student, Amy Clayton, said, “I’m half way through an open uni degree which is funded by student finance. I’ll be in about £18,000 of debt when I finish, but I’ll have to earn so much before paying it back that I know it’ll be worth it. I would never discourage anyone, especially my kids, when it comes to education.”

Another student, Rachel Louise Orwell, agreed, saying “Uni is definitely worth it. I’m doing a primary education course and I’m in my second year. It’s £9,250 a year so understandably I’ll have a lot of debt, but realistically I’ll never pay it off. I think of it more as a student tax- I’ll get taxed for 30 years after I graduate, and then it disappears as fees get cancelled after then.”

Not all students feel this way about getting a degree.

Lauren Adele said, “Being in my final year, I can say that I don’t think it’s worth the fees. Last year I learnt a lot more about my specialist subject through sourcing talks with industry professionals outside of uni-which I had to pay for!

“I feel I’m in a cycle at the moment that just isn’t worth the money and stress I’m putting into it.”

However, many feel that the type of degree people do at university is important.

Vocational subjects, such as medicine and education, have a much lower unemployment rate than humanities and creative subjects.

Terry Rees said, “If you’re doing uni for the sake of it, then it’s probably a waste of money.

“Don’t get me wrong, I think the student experience can be valuable, but if you end your three years with a third class degree in a pointless subject and are semi-dependent on snakebite, then I can’t see how that’s a good investment of your time or money.”

Liam Kelly agreed, saying, “It depends on what you’re going to uni to do. Some courses are ridiculous for how much it costs. Of course if you want to be a doctor or lawyer it’s 100% worth it, but other things, not so much.

“People that go will tell you it’s worth it, people that don’t go will tell you otherwise.”

For now, the study is just a proposal and not and agreed change by the Government.

In the meantime, you can save money at University with our student deals and discounts.

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