Labour is not so much courting the student vote, rather trying to get them drunk in order to get them into bed. The latest of such ploys is to reduce the tuition fee loan to £6,000. Now this may seem popular with students, it’s almost an axiomatic move from Ed Miliband. However, like many of Labour’s policies, it isn’t as simple as they portray. Promising to cut fees is an easy way to win votes, but logically there is little need for such a change. Not only is there little need, but some of the claims by Ed Miliband simply aren’t true.
Ed Miliband has claimed that this will ease the burden on the exchequer to the tune of £40 billion. This claim can be argued as partially true, depending on revenue. An IFS report (see further reading) into the tuition fee reduction has argued on various fronts depending on the revenue that Labour claim they can generate. The IFS argues that with the massive increase in teaching grants needed to keep up funding, the policy on its own would in the long run cost around £1 billion pounds. However they do also point out that estimating the exact cost when there are many variables, in how many students will pay their money back and how much they earn from raiding the coffers of wealthy pensioners. The IFS has argued that if the revenue streams are there then it could save money overall.
Who would cutting fees be beneficial? Would those at the very bottom of earnings surely would benefit from this? Well you’d be wrong. The IFS have calculated the people who earn the most from this policy, those in the 80% and above of graduate earners. There is absolutely no cash reward for those earners in the 25th to 50th percentile of graduates. This is because the fee loan itself introduced by the coalition had a cap on what you could earn before you paid anything back. The IFS are not the only ones who are saying this. Martin Lewis has called this policy “financially illiterate”. So the benign claim that Labour are on the side of young people has to be in question with this new policy.
Another claim often banded about is that this will substantially increase student numbers. Again this is simply not true. There are numerous problems about this assumption. Firstly, student applications have bee increasing since the tuition fee rises were put in place. I have found the more people are educated about the reality of the fees, the less they really care about them. That is why there are a record number of poorer students going to university. The myth put about by the NUS and other ineffective organisations which like their propaganda that student numbers would free fall simply hasn’t been a reality. The IFS did argue there may be a slight increase in part time graduates but that’s the only real effect on numbers.
Will students be better off with a new maintenance loan system? Well, if Labour were devoted to the student cause much more would have been suggested. Instead of a much needed re-working of a maintenance loan, Labour is offering a pitiful extra £500 for students whose parents earn around £45,000 a year. This derisory offer shows that beyond the headline grabbing policy, Labour either lack imagination or don’t really care about students. When people talk about the ‘cost of a degree’ they don’t mean the tuition fee loan. They mean the cost of accommodation, living and having to embarrassingly ask mum and dad, use the dreaded overdraft, and an unsubstantial maintenance loan. The real revolution which is needed hasn’t happened. If only the NUS and other student organisations made as much fuss as they did in 2010 maybe Labour would listen. Sadly, Labour don’t care about students, if they did they would have actually have done something beyond the vanilla, headline grabbing policy and addressed the real crisis which is facing students.
By Sam Mace, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.
– IFS report – http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN164.pdf