How should Jeremy Corbyn fund university education?
Recently we had a General election, which was called by the current Conservative party Prime Minister Teresa May. The Labour opposition was lead by Jeremy Corbyn. Both parties, in the past two decades, have moved away from free university tuition to establish a £1000 per year tuition fee, over the years increasing it to £3000 and then to £9000 in 2012.
Under the current Conservative party this will be raised even further. Currently, the average student debt is £44,000, which includes the mantainence loan. This does not consider the added interest that would need to be paid back once graduates begin earning £21,000. Under this current system we now generate the biggest average student debt of any English speaking country even surpassing the United States.
In light of such a future where the majority of graduates will probably not be able to repay their debts Jeremy Corbyn's education manifesto caught my eye. If he won the election he promised to abolish tuition fees and address the debt of recent graduates. If I was contemplating going to university or was about to graduate he would have certainly got my vote.
There was a time when I agreed that university should be free especially when I was at university paying tuition fees. However, despite the noble intention, there is no escaping the issue of how to fund university education. If students are not paying for it then someone else has to.
If going to university is meant to set you up for a career, then there is value in it and by making it absolutely free we could potentially be devaluing the degree. It can be argued that not all degrees will be as lucrative as another despite having the same tuition fee and debt result.
Also, if a degree contributes greatly to getting you started in your desired career then I doubt people will have any complaints about paying for it. Nevertheless, a degree should not get you into huge debt either. Therefore, I propose a middle way of paying to study at university based on it’s individual value rather than pricing all degree courses exactly the same.
What do you base a degree’s value on? Let’s go with a metric that’s easily quantifiable: money. That is not to say that a degree is not valuable in other ways such as the experience and life long connections you will make but the main expectation of a degree is to qualify you at a higher level of ability which is rewarded with salary.
Since it is hard to put an exact figure on what the earning potential would be for every type of degree why don’t we have a payment system whereby graduates pay 10% of their earnings for the first three years of their working career. The three year count will begin when graduates begin earning £20,000 to be eligible for the 10% contributions. Did a degree get you a £50,000 a year job? Great, pay £5,000 per year or £416.6 per month. Did it get you a £20,000 a year job? Then pay £2,000 per year or £166.6 per month.
What if your degree had nothing to do with your early working years? Well how fast you get to the £20,000 threshold could be indicative of what your degree is worth in the job market, even if you got your job despite your degree, which may still happen.
Whatever you earn that’s over £20,000 then you are only making 10% contributions and than after three years, you are free! No long term debt and no interest. What about the maintenance loan? This is something that not everybody will be needing, especially if you are living at home while studying. Let’s keep this for those that need it but don’t charge interest on it and make it super easy to pay back such as 5% of your earnings after graduation with no minimum threshold until it’s paid off.
That feels like the right balance of what Jeremy Corbyn should be implementing as his Education policy where education becomes more of an investment rather than a debt and will hopefully help students think more carefully about what they want to do with their lives and therefore what they should study.