Author Archives: Miguel Smith

Don’t waste money scrapping tuition fees: level the playing field instead

I think at some point, every one of us has taken a hit over tuition fees; whether in a debating society, a council chamber or even on the doorstep. It’s frustrating that from every achievement we made during coalition, it is one woeful compromise that is made to define our time in government.

But despite the bombasts of Corbyn’s comrades and so-called progressives in Labour, ours is a record to be proud of. Under Liberal Democrat policy, more young people than ever are going to university, and even more of those are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Not only that but under our progressive approach, the lowest-earning 30% of graduates are paying less overall than under Labour’s broken system.

It’s easy for other parties to sit back and score political points by calling for the complete scrapping of fees, wilfully ignoring the fatal flaws seen in Scotland, where strict student caps mean the rich are now four times more likely to go to university than those from less well-off backgrounds. As Liberal Democrats, we should be going further, to build on our legacy with pragmatic, sensible and bold liberal policy to encourage, protect and inspire the country’s future doctors, teachers, and leaders.

I’m proud that we are a party that is enshrined in building a society where everyone is given the same opportunities irregardless of their background. But I also feel that is why we should be standing out from the noise and calling for bold measures to support students, such as new universal grants to all full-time students to support their living costs, at a similar scale as the existing maintenance loans (in excess of £9,000 annually).

University is a time for young people to learn and have fun, not to be mulled down by financial worries, yet 1 in 5 students in 2019 were forced to work two jobs to meet the rising cost of student living. These substantial grants would level the playing field between these students and their better-off peers who can dedicate more time to their studies because they don’t need to work.

And with 67% of students saying their mental health has been negatively affected by cash concerns, these grants would also lift considerable pressure on students’ mental well-being, reducing the strain on underfunded mental health services. While at the same time cutting the total debt students leave university with by lessening the reliance on maintenance loans.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 34 Comments
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