“Graduate earnings by institution? Let’s break it down for you” (News, 6 June) shines much-needed light on the student fee and value debate. In 2012, the UK government estimated that the total outstanding debt of students in England would spiral to £80 billion by the start of 2017-18. In the current economic climate, it would be sensible to tackle increasing debt and question the value students get from their financial investment in higher education.
Could we perhaps learn something from the US? In 2012, outstanding student loan debt there exceeded $1 trillion. In an effort to address this Congress took action. Now universities in many US states are legally required to make earnings and labour market data accessible to students and parents. These data show student earnings post-graduation from individual universities and specific courses to help applicants make informed investment decisions.
Data on student earnings post-graduation are far from being “dangerous”: this is essential information that could be made available now if the government deemed it necessary. Furthermore, a European Commission comparison of student fees in 2011-12 showed that UK students (excluding Scotland) paid more than their peers in around 30 countries (and in many cases more than courses in the US).
With this in mind, should we be asking 17-year-olds to make one of the biggest investment decisions of their lives without information as to what kinds of salary they can expect after university? As responsible parents and taxpayers, shouldn’t we help our teenagers think about their job and earnings prospects when they face the possibility of being £60,000 in debt on graduation.
Head of education