Nothing unfair about tuition fees

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There is still a great deal of confusion about university tuition fees and at a time when students and parents are considering further education options, there was a very helpful article in a recently published special study report.

This stated that while state-funded universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year for courses starting from September 2012, it’s important to note that these fees are not paid upfront. In fact, they are not paid by students at all, they are paid by graduates.

Parents don’t need deep pockets and the students of tomorrow will be no worse off than those of yesterday while they are at university, when their fees are paid by government loans.

The debate kicks in over repayments. Students starting university in September 2013 will start to repay their loan after they have graduated, found employment and are earning more than £21,000pa. At this point, they will pay back 9 per cent of their salary over the £21,000pa. Meanwhile, a graduate who started their course in 2011, before the fees were raised, will repay fees at the same rate, but on earnings above only £15,000pa.

That means a graduate earning £22,000pa whose course started in 2011 will make repayments of £52.50 a month, while one who starts in 2013 would pay £7.50 a month at the same salary level, regardless of whether their fees were £6,000 or £9,000. However, the overall debt will be greater for future graduates and they will have to make repayments for a longer period.

The idea that the poor are priced out of university is totally false. Under the new system, a graduate who never earns more than £21,000pa, or the index-linked equivalent, won’t pay back a penny.

I fully understand that this can be a difficult issue, but the new system of paying for university education is in many ways an improvement on the old one and is nowhere near as unfair as some of the media try to portray.

Paul Sparks, Uckfield