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Should University Tuition Be Free?

The decision to implement tuition fees began with the Labour government in 1998, with a cost of up to £1,000 per year for tuition. Fast-forward to 2017, and we see fees of up to £9,250 and interest at 6.1%. Students are incurring huge debts which the majority fail to pay off.

The problem with this system is the rate of interest placed on loans; an even higher interest rate of 6.1% was recently announced, and new students face an average debt of £55,000 upon graduation. This is not sustainable, and there is a strong case for reform with Labour promising to abolish fees.

Who can forget the Lib Dem’s policy back in 2012? Hopefully the lesson has been learned by Labour, but the debate over the quality and cost has been brought up once more, and it doesn’t seem to have changed. I am entirely in support of the abolition of fees, but I do not want to see a reduction in quality or a compromise on education opportunities.

Some counter arguments have stated that Scotland’s free tuition, for example, is flawed; they are wholly dependent upon international students to make up the shortfall. This is something England must be careful not to replicate. Foregoing the Scottish system, the cost to the taxpayer would be huge, and this could be tough to justify in the current political climate; even so, it is not a debate that can be ignored.

As graduates are earning higher salaries and paying higher taxes, free tuition is justifiable. Opposition would argue that if a student wants a university degree, they should pay for it and reap the benefits later in life. This seems like a logical approach on the surface, but we no longer live in a society where a degree defines one’s chances in the job market. With the sheer volume of graduates being turned out every year, the competition for jobs is fierce, and many graduates have found themselves in lower paid jobs that don’t necessarily require a degree. Although on average graduates earn more and thus pay more in tax, the majority never pay off their student debt, and this screams ‘problem’.

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