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

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.

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?