Thank god I was born in 1978

Whenever I see a new story about changes to university tuition fees (i.e., them getting more expensive. It's never the other way round), I always try to apply the new proposals to my own circumstances when I went to Nottingham in 1996. It's a very solipsistic attitude, but you have to have a way to cope, don't you? When fees were first brought in I would have been unable to go to Nottingham*, and would have had to go to Leeds instead and live at home. When the repayment threshold was lowered to £15k, I doubt I would have been able to take up my first job in London (starting salary: £16k pa) because I wouldn't have been able to afford to live on such wages minus a massive chunk for fees.

And now, if the suggestions for lowering the repayment threshold still further and upping the interest rate are taken on, I doubt I would ever have been able to leave Yorkshire. How would I have been able to afford to get the experience in my chosen field to allow me to get a job in London, never mind pay my way down here? How students from my background (and my parents were hardly on the breadline, probably C2 nudging C1; I got a partial, not full, grant) ever achieve any kind of social or geographical mobility these days is beyond me.

(As an aside: if you didn't know, one of the reasons I am (still) angry about fees is because Ron Dearing was Nottingham's Chancellor while he was writing the, um, Dearing Report, which was published only a couple of months after the union had managed to beat down the university's desire to introduce fees themselves. It didn't matter; Dearing just went ahead and did it nationally. I realise this is a highly simplistic view to take, but it still feels personal.)

* The unspoken acknowledgement here is that I'm sure I could have done all these things had I been willing to take on massive debt or emotionally blackmail my parents into penury. In reality, I would have done neither of these things.

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6 responses to “Thank god I was born in 1978

  1. Kate May 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    This is what pisses me off about fees – the whole structure is based on myopically smug middle-class assumptions about the acceptability of debt and the psychological comfort of committing to a re-payment schedule, which simply don’t apply to a large number of working-class people, for whom debt is (completely naturally and rationally) an epic, scary, threatening thing. All of the debate around ‘affordability’ completely ignores the fact that a lot of lower-income people simply don’t want to become indebted and will not go into higher education if they perceive it to involve significant financial risk.

  2. Kate May 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    … And another thing (!) …
    It REALLY pisses me off when you get all these twats pontificating about the ‘culture of debt’ and how we all have to get used to being ‘much less indebted’ and so on and so forth. Because a ‘culture of debt’ is quite alright when it comes to paying for one’s education, or housing, isn’t it? It’s only a BAD ‘culture of debt’ when the recalcitrant working classes are spending money on, you know, enjoying themselves and things. They should all be wearing sackcloth and ashes and saving their debt-leverage capacity to use on IMPORTANT things like paying for university and paying for housing and paying for care when they get old and/or needy. Because that kind of debt is GOOD, right, whereas borrowing to go on holiday is BAD, right, and feckless, and typically irresponsible and therefore should be lectured about in a smug, moralistic manner.
    ARGH!

  3. Rachel May 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I’m glad you said this… I came very close to adding another paragraph about the psychology of debt for t’folk like me, but was concerned it would be another one of those ‘LOOK HOW MY CHILDHOOD SCARRED ME’ diatribes.
    *ahem*

  4. Mark October 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    See you’ve just linked back to this on Twitter – nice to see the Browne report at least suggests upping the repayment threshold. I haven’t had a chance to read it properly yet but it sounds quite scary…

    As a side-note, under the current system a graduate earning £16k pays back £7.50 a month, which I’m not sure counts as “a huge chunk”. The new repayments system at least makes me feel better about my twenty grand debt…

  5. Scott Brownlee October 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it.

    Why should going to university be any different to buying a car, a house or a pair of trainers?

    Why should I pay more tax instead of you or your parents paying for your education?

    There are too many so-called universities with too many students. We need people with trades and skills, not media studies degrees. The Govt should support key skills – medical, engineering, etc – everything else should be available at a price if you choose to pay for it yourself. If the University of Upper Croydon has to close, well so be it.

    As for this fairness agreement, what next – Tesco check-out assistants (probably graduates) asking what tax band customers are in so they can vary the price of the basket of groceries by their “ability to pay”?

    • markstaylor October 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

      “Why should going to university be any different to buying a car, a house or a pair of trainers?”

      Because university benefits society as well as the individual. And because most people’s ability to go to university would then be determined by their parents’ wealth, steamrollering social mobility.

      Oh, and Tesco already accepts payment in money received through the welfare system, which is there to help those who wouldn’t otherwise have the “ability to pay”.

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