The government is considering making this radical change to tuition fees
The government is looking into cutting tuition fees for the majority of degrees, except those that could lead to higher earnings for which it is considering an increase.
Earlier this year Theresa May announced that the government would be reviewing the Student Loan system, with a view to making a number of changes. The move was regarded by many as a direct response to the huge turnout of young voters in support of Labour at the last election.
According to reports by the Times and the BBC, the review has led to a consideration to decrease tuition fees for most subjects and increase those of degrees that have historically lead to higher paid jobs post-university.
It's worth noting at this stage that nothing is confirmed until the full results of the review are released at some point next year. This news is based on leaks and insider knowledge, with a number of top universities already setting themselves up for this eventuality.
How might student fees and funding change?
Tuition fees at most unis currently stand at £9,250, regardless of the subject of the course.
The post-18 education panel headed by Philip Auger, which is due to release a full report next year, is looking at anchoring course costs to how much you are expected to earn once you leave uni. This would mean lowering the price of some courses to £6,500, but increasing those for which a higher salary is expected to £13,500 a year.
As humanities and arts students are not expected to earn as much as students studying engineering, sciences, maths or medicine, course costs would go down for the former and increase for the latter.
There is also an argument that arts and humanities courses are less financially demanding than science-based courses, which require costly technical equipment and more contact time with professors.
The reasoning here is that some courses are worth more, financially-speaking, and should be priced accordingly.
It has also been alleged that universities aren't providing "value for money" education – that the amount they're charging for certain courses is disproportionate to how much students can expect to earn later on.
According to the Value For Money in Higher Education report published by the House of Commons Education Selection committee, nearly half of recent graduates weren't working in graduate roles in 2017. This could also have an impact on how much universities are willing to charge for those precious hours of contact time.
Would these changes make a difference to your wallet?
It may come as a surprise that the drop to £6,500/year would still be of little to no benefit to the majority of students.
While cutting fees would reduce the day-to-day psychological pressure of taking on a loan, it would only really make a difference to those earning the big bucks. For most of you, it's unlikely that your wallet would see any real benefit.
Why? Well, remember that 30-year deadline? You know – the one whereby your debt gets wiped if you haven't paid it off in full 30 years after your first payment? Well, because of this handy clause, most students don't actually get close to repaying the entirety of their debt. Only one in five graduates are expected to do so.
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Only students on the highest salaries that actually stand a chance of paying off their loan would feel the change.
When Theresa May announced that the government would review the Student Finance system earlier this year I jumped for joy.
After hearing that this is possibly the first proposed change, I'm slightly less excited. It seems as if the government are planning to change things just to secure votes and look good in the press.
There seems to be no mention of making changes that students actually want and need. Without sounding like a broken record, the real money problem at uni is that the Maintenance Loan is not enough to live on. This is where the real changes should be happening.
This suggested change to tuition fees will only benefit a small proportion of the richest graduates. It's not the olive branch it appears to be.
Jake Butler, Save the Student's Student Finance expert
So what really needs to change?
Here’s what students * actually * want.
- maintenance grants
- better mental health services funding
- more funding for FE
- bursaries for nurses
- funding for students w disabilities
Oh and can you fix Student Finance? Because the whole company/system is atrocious. https://t.co/lJFhIRt33C
— Sheri B (@brandysheri) November 3, 2018
We've said it before and we'll say it again. The real issue lies with the Maintenance Loan: it just doesn't quite make the cut.
The average Maintenance Loan payment comes in at just £138.85/week, while the UK national average for student rent stands at a mahoo-sive £130.59/week – that’s around £566/month.
So, according to our National Student Money Survey, that leaves the average student with an average of just £8 a week to live on. Bread and butter three times a day for the rest of the month, anyone?
How are you supposed to be covering the rest of your monthly costs? Ah, that's right – the rentals. What the government has failed to clarify is that the difference between your Maintenance Loan and your living costs is supposed to be made up by your parents.
Because Maintenance Loans are means-tested based on household income, the ol' government ends up assuming that parents can contribute a ton more than they actually can.
So, cutting tuition fees? Nice try. As far as we're concerned the government needs to look at where students are actually facing financial hardship and put their money where their mouth is. Starting with a complete overhaul of Maintenance Loans.
Has all this talk of repayments got you in a tizzy over Student Finance? We're not surprised, it is a bit of a conundrum at first glance! Get yourself back on track with our big fat guide.
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