Merryn's Blog

Tuition fees – the most progressive policy we’ve seen in ages

The new tuition fee figure of £9,000 per year may sound like a lot, but read the small print - students are getting a much better deal than they realise.

Worried about tuition fees? You probably shouldn't be. Listen to this broadcast from Radio 4's More or Less and you will see why. £9,000 a year might sound like a lot to have to borrow to pay to go to university but the truth is that very few people will actually have to pay the lot back.

Say you borrow £30,000 over the three years you are at university. If you then go on to earn below £35,000 you will end up paying almost none of the loan back in the 30 years before it is written off (in inflation-adjusted terms). If you go on to earn around £50,000 you will pay back less than half of what you have borrowed. Only if you earn more than £70,000 will you eventually end up paying back all that you have borrowed plus interest.

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So the plans are actually little more than a transfer of wealth from mathematics and computing students (whose degrees earn them an extra £220,000 over a career) to arts students (who earn only an extra £22,000). It is also remarkably progressive in the pure sense of the word: the low earning pay very little, if anything, and the high earning pay a lot. Makes you wonder what all the complaining is about doesn't it?

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