Yesterday I celebrated having no money


It was a big day for me yes­ter­day. My bank account finally reached £0. That’s no over­draft, no VISA bill and no stu­dent loan. Next month the bank will have to use black ink to print my balance.

This is an achieve­ment given I self-funded an MPhil and a PhD after my BA. If I’d paid what the gov­ern­ment said I should pay on my stu­dent loan then I’d still have most of it to pay off. Fortunately I’ve found the Student Loan Company extraordin­ar­ily hard to talk to, hence the VISA and over­draft. It’s a worse rate of interest and it meant the bank phoning up every so often ask­ing “Where’s our money?”, but at least I felt they were tak­ing an interest. It’s been a big incent­ive to get it paid off.

Typical Students?

Students in the days when David Cameron was at university.

In future years this will seem quaint. The UK gov­ern­ment is set to impose fees of up to £9000 per year on stu­dents. To put this in con­text, around a dec­ade ago there were no fees, and the people impos­ing these fees had their uni­ver­sity edu­ca­tion paid for them by the state, along with a gen­er­ous grant for attend­ing uni­ver­sity as well as vari­ous bene­fits. There’s simply no way the aver­age par­ent of a child at school can pre­pare for these fees. If you can’t pay the fees up front you can pay them after. You’ll be charged above infla­tion for the loan, and if you pay off the loan early you’ll be hit with pen­alty charges, because the gov­ern­ment is using these extra pay­ments over the cost of the course to fund Higher Education. Vince Cable hasn’t dwelled much on the import­ance of pen­al­ising people who pay off their debts, other than to say on BBC News, “It’s like a tax”. Actually, with these pen­alty clauses, it’s gov­ern­ment redis­tri­bu­tion of wealth. It is a tax, at least for those who can’t afford to pay the huge fees.

It’ll also be a massive bur­den. Paying these fees off will be the equi­val­ent of mak­ing the final pay­ment on your mortgage.

There’s lot to dis­like about the cuts, but the com­mon factor that really gets me down is that they’re presen­ted as mor­ally jus­ti­fied, as though these are exactly the sort of thing we should be doing any­way. The jus­ti­fic­a­tion for the cuts isn’t “Baby Boomers don’t want to pay tax at the same rate as their par­ents did”. It’s “The per­son who bene­fits should pay”. It’s hugely depress­ing that politi­cians on all sides of the house don’t believe that an edu­cated and informed elect­or­ate is an asset to the nation.

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