As tuition fees seem set to increase, the impact higher fees may have on putting off potential students from applying to university has been one of the concerns raised. Indeed, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests there is a direct relationship between the level of fees and the likelihood of students from more modest backgrounds going to university.
Since it is unlikely that tuition fees will be abolished in the near future, this is a problem we really need to address.
All too often the media will find a college student to ask whether the idea of leaving university with thousands of pounds of debt puts them off applying and inevitably the answer has usually been yes.
It seems that collectively, the public have developed a warped perception of debt.
Whilst some in society are taking on credit cards with high interest rates, little prospect of repayment, and dire consequences of failing to repay, it appears that potential university students are being allowed to become terrified by the idea of borrowing money from the government at bargain rates. Not only that, student loan repayments are deducted from earnings with no risk of a bailiff knocking at the door and the debt is eventually wiped after a number of years.
There is clearly work to do in ensuring that students and their parents fully understand the cost of going to university and how that is to be paid. As fees climb higher this becomes an even greater issue and so the Government and others must seek to deal with this.
I hope that the NUS, which some suggest have been misrepresenting the current proposals, will devote the same amount of energy that has been involved in their recent protests to correcting the misunderstandings regarding tuition fees which may be discouraging some young people from going to university.
I fear instead that the NUS will focus more on getting revenge by going after Liberal Democrat MPs. That is unlikely to benefit students much, particularly since the Lib Dems are the only party which wants to scrap tuition fees, even if that unfortunately isn’t possible at the current time.