For the record, I would have voted no because in my view it sets a dangerous precedent, well continues one, but the following things have annoyed me recently:
- The Reporting. There has been minimal distinction between a debt that must be paid back and the student debt which is paid back only on your earnings and is written off if you haven't repaid it within 30 years (don't know the exact time frame). In addition focus has only been placed on the maximum fees that can be charged. Hardly any coverage has been given to the fact that the poorest will be able to go for one or even two years for free because of this headline figure.
- The students protesting. Students will be better off under this system until they start earning ridiculous amounts of money (the sort of money that makes a person more likely to vote Tory anyway). Those who have traditionally voted Labour or Lib Dem will in general be better off, or at least better off for longer and again only in a worse financial position if they are earning significant amounts of money - the sort of people that students would probably say should contribute more.
- The students who are protesting also will have nothing change for them. You can't tell me that all of them are protesting because they know how it will effect those who come after them. Of course they aren't!
- The NUS. They have fanned the flames of these protests without really thinking things through. Their preferable system is one which is unworkable. Even the shadow chancellor knows it is (though his party have to be opportunistic and say that this is what they would prefer, despite launching the Browne report). They should have acted more maturely and looked objectively at the proposal rather than calling for instant protests.
- Finally. The thing that has annoyed me the most is the rationale of the politicians or how they are explaining their proposals. I wouldn't have been angry if the Liberal Democrats had come out and said
"we have looked at all of the options available, as our coalition partners are unwilling to remove fees and wish to follow the Browne recommendations we have done our best to make the proposed legislation fairer and more progressive. Students will have an extra £6,000 of income before they start paying back a penny of their fees. In addition this loan from the government to cover their fees will be written off after xx years, so if a person doesn't earn enough to cover the cost then they will not pay it back. In fact this will have the effect of any person earning £XX,000 paying back exactly the same amount as they would have done previously, albeit over a longer period. Any student who earns on average less than this will be better off, any who earns more (for instance bankers) will be worse off."
What I can't accept is the rhetoric that they have been forced to make this decision due to the financial circumstances. This is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly there is always a choice, winter fuel payments could have been means tested, the tax brackets could have remained the same etc. Secondly, and most importantly, this does absolutely nothing for the amount of money the government needs to raise now. All that happens is rather than increasing the debt by creating an expense they increase it by creating an asset (as in theory they are expecting the money back). This looks better for the overall debt position but is exactly the same. The government wont receive a penny back towards these fees until 2016, and even then it will be receiving back less than it would have done under the old system. It will only start to see a benefit when the students reach the stage when they would have previously paid off their debt. In fact, even then it will have taken them longer to reach this stage so when taking into account the time value of money it will be longer still. In my estimations, if someone constantly earns £40,000 from leaving university (unrealistic I know), it would not be until 2028 when the government would start receiving more than they would have done from this person. Hardly a solution to the current financial crisis!
So when I say I would have voted no, that is not because I believe this is a worse proposition than the current one, I would have voted no because: It does nothing to reduce the deficit; Most of the debts will end up being written off (having been a source of discomfort for students for 30 years when they needn't be); And it will open the way for fees to continue to increase, where as I believe in a token fee level with the remainder provided by the state. I would not have voted no just because of a promise, things change and each proposal should be judged on it's own merits - which is why pledging is misguided.