25 Universities lower their tuition fees
It has become apparent that 25 universities have been allowed to change the structure of their fees for 2012 at this late stage in the year leading to confusion among many students. The Office of Fair Access (OFFA) have revealed that universities have been allowed to change their fee structures in line with the new student finance rules.
Due to a drop in UCAS applicants by 15% from this time last year, because of the rise in fees to £9,000, the government announced that universities who drop their fees will be able to benefit from large expansion plans and the benefits of 20,000 extra places at their institutions. With this in mind, around 25 universities applied by planning to drop their fees to below £7,500 a year.
24 universities and 1 college have been able to lower their fees, a combined total of £16.3million less a year, of but the cost of the special waivers have risen to a staggering £37.4million. Some universities have dropped fees for all of their courses such as the University of Chester, University of Cumbria, Institute of Education, Teesside University and Sparsholt College.
Is it a good idea?
This may appear a good idea on the face of it but there is a hidden catch included in the lowering of fees at many of these universities.
This new lowering of fees means that the universities will no longer have a responsibility to offer special grants and scholarships to students from poorer backgrounds, which they have to do if they are looking to charge £9,000. In fact, bursaries and scholarships have been hit by a £13.8 million reduction.
NUS Leader Liam Burns has stated that:
Fee-waivers are a con-trick that will only benefit graduates who are earning enough to pay off their student loans within 30 years. They help the Treasury, who have to spend less on loans, but are of no benefit to students whatsoever.
To put it simply, the lowering of fees in many of these universities means that students may leave with a higher amount of debt even thought they are paying £1,500+ less a year for their fees. This will be a negative outcome for graduates who will leave university and become low or medium earners and those who cannot afford to pay for their fees upfront or quickly after they leave university.
Under the new loan repayment system, the longer it takes to pay back the larger the interest that adds up.
The government has argued that fee-waivers have increased, as we have seen above, and this will be of great benefit to a number of students looking to apply for university in 2012.
What is the impact on prospective students?
This has not come at a good time as the confusion over student finance and student fees in 2012 is growing and it may lead to more prospective students shying away from applying to university this year.