Tuition Fees: Fair, Foul, or Just Pointless?Posted: 8th of January 2015 by
There has been a lot of talk about university tuition fees lately. With students protesting towards the end of last term, the Conservatives making no moves to lower them, the Liberals being called out for back-tracking on promises made about fees, and Labour refusing to commit on plans to cut them, it seems tuition fees are here to stay – for now at least! But how do you see them? Are they a fair measure, ensuring that people pay for their own education, or are they unfair, or at worst, simply failing?
Let’s start with the idea that stands behind tuition fees – the notion that students should pay for their own educations. On the surface this sounds fine – if you want to go to university to get a better job and more money, then you can pay for it yourself. After all, it is you who will benefit from your higher education, right?
This would be fair if all graduates ended up getting well-paid jobs that allowed them to pay back the debts they incurred by going to university. However, this simply isn’t the case, and so we end up with many students saddled with debts that they have no hope of paying back any time soon. Of course, students are insulated from these crippling debts by agreements that state they don’t have to pay any money back until they are earning above a certain amount of money. But this still means that there is a lot of unpaid debt out there – demoralising for the student unable to pay it back, and pointless for the lenders who won’t actually see the money returned.
On top of this there are questions over value for money. After all, for most people, £9,000 is quite a lot of money to spend. Let’s put it this way – you wouldn’t turn it down if someone was to give you £9k, would you? So, understandably, students are wondering what they are getting for their money. Being given hand-outs in a lecture and then having it read to you word for word for an hour doesn’t seem like good value for money. Tuition fees allow students to call such matters into question – placing extra pressure on institutions to come up with the goods.
Of course, we should expect that our colleges and universities are doing their best and offering the best value courses possible. But is the whole tuition fee system flawed?
Figures suggest that vast numbers of graduates will never repay the money they have borrowed to study, while the cost of tuition is certainly turning some poorer pupils away from going to university. If this continues, the idea of university being a place where the best people can study will become a mockery, as only the wealthy will feel comfortable paying the high fees.
Of course, university can be great, and is sometimes the only route into a career, but with other options becoming increasingly strong, the old notion that university is always the best choice is being challenged. Furthermore, sponsored degrees and distance learning are proving to be alternatives that can offer a degree without the same levels of debt.
Sadly, it seems university has become as much about money as it is about learning. Perhaps it is time for a real rethink over tuition fees.
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