Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Do students know what they're protesting about?

I admire the student protesters. It's great to see young people having an interest in politics. This will hopefully spark an increase in voter turnout of 18-24 year olds, which has been pretty dismal to say the least.

The only problem I have (apart from the violence) is that many of the demonstrators seemed to be so misinformed. Even this morning - one day before the vote - I was contacted by someone calling himself a "students' union professional" who had no idea that £9,000 was only going to be charged in exceptional circumstances.

If I were a student, I would make sure I knew all the facts and was protesting for the right reasons. So here's a few fallacies the student union keep bleating about and the truth behind them:

Everyone's tuition fees are going up to £9,000 per year

No. Universities wanting to charge more than £6,000 will have to undertake measures, such as offering bursaries, summer schools and outreach programmes, to encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply.

Universities Minister David Willetts says universities will only be allowed to charge fees of £9,000 in "exceptional circumstances", which he said might mean if they had high teaching costs, or if a university was offering an intensive two-year course.

Students will have a lifetime of debt

No. If the loan hasn't been paid off within 30 years, it's automatically written off.

If students are being charged more, they will pay back more each month

No. The total amount paid off will of course be higher, but the repayment per month will drop considerably.

The threshold at which graduates have to start paying their loans back would be raised from £15,000 to £21,000.

Graduates would pay back 9% of their income each month above that threshold. So at £21,000 this would equate to around £7 per month.

Students from poorer families will be priced out from going to university

No. Maintenance grants will rise from £2,906 to £3,250 for students from households earning less than £25,000 and pupils who have been eligible for school meals could get up to two years' worth of fees paid by the government under plans being considered.

In most cases, this means they would only have to take out tuition fee loans for their third and final year of study.

UPDATE: CCHQ have just released this website

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