It’s easy to knock the Lib Dems on tuition fees, but what’s the solution?
Another December post that got delayed till now, but now if I blog on the New College of the Humanities you have some idea of where I might be coming from.
If I were a Lib Dem intent on breaking a pledge, or a Conservative who genuinely believed the policy I were supporting, there’s one simple change I would make to the bill.
David Cameron has stated that when it comes to the financial crisis, we’re all in it together. Here is his opportunity to prove it. I would add a clause to the Education bill that any MP voting in favour of fees will be be expected to pay back a ‘loan’ at the equal to the highest value of ‘loan’ paid by a student. If the nation is not benefiting from a student graduating from a course Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford in 2015, then nor can it have benefitted from someone graduating from the same course in 1988. If the MPs are sincere that the free ride at the tax payer’s expense has to stop then they should be the first to get off.
There are some reasons why such a clause could not happen, but they don’t hold water.
- You can’t just drop a massive bill on to someone with little or no warning.
Actually you can, and this is exactly what Parliament intends to do to seventeen year olds in England from 2012.
- You’re eliminating choice, some MPs would not have taken a degree if they were aware of its cost.
Incorrect, if the government it to be believed. They are very clear that the prospect of starting working life £50,000 in debt to the state is in no way a disincentive to education.
- The MPs already have financial commitments, they could not afford to pay such fees.
Students paying off these ‘loans’ will still be paying off these ‘loans’ when their own children start university. Further, fees will only be paid by people who can afford to pay them. Any MPs earning under £21,000 will not pay a penny.
This isn’t going to solve everything. There’s still the small matter that thousands of people feel the Liberal Democrats have stolen their vote. Still, at the moment the published plan is to force children who have had no opportunity to vote to pay for an education that MPs got for free. It’s the political equivalent to hanging around the school gates and bullying the small kids out of their lunch money. Paying the fees won’t magically make everything alright but it will make a difference. It will at least allow MPs to establish their sincerity rather than leave them with the odour of piggies who want to keep their noses in the trough.
We might all be in it together, but at the moment some of us are definitely more in it than others.