Loans and fees logic out of kilter

December 5, 1997

IF THE reports are correct, the Labour government is now reaching the same conclusion as its Tory predecessors: however intelligent, just and appropriate its policy, there is always a difficulty about its explanation.

The solution is never to review decisions but to sort out the form in which the message is delivered to the public. I fear that I may be a victim of PPE (Perpetual Propaganda Errata) and would welcome a clear explanation to avoid the terrible feeling that this government, like so many others before, has never accepted the Lincoln principle that a government cannot fool all the people all the time. If I have followed the logic of the Labour government's econo-moral tuition fees policy, it works like this. A degree adds to one's earning potential making it likely that a significantly higher income-level will be achieved after graduation. I do not want to argue with that proposition, although, and obviously, one will pay more tax if one earns more and thus one clearly will pay more than once for the special privilege of higher education. I do not want to argue with that because the government's mechanism for extracting the VAT on learning is, seemingly, more obviously askew.

From 1998, new undergraduates will have to pay a tuition fee of Pounds 1,000 per year. To avoid the problem of large numbers of parents not being able -or not wishing -Jto pay, most students can obtain a loan to cover the cost. Most, of course, because not all students will require the loan. The exempted proportion will be those from the poorer families, for their children will not be required to pay the new fee.

That is the odd bit. The primary premise is that one pays after one has graduated and after one has reached a set magic income marker. What, one may ask, then, has one's parent's income to do with the argument? It would count only if parents were asked to cover the fee; it has no weight at all if the new fee is automatically a loan to be recovered from the student's post-graduation income.

Andrew Morgan

Administrative assistantGraduate School, University of Wales, Swansea

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