Magazine article Public Finance

College Costs and Lost Opportunities

Magazine article Public Finance

College Costs and Lost Opportunities

Article excerpt

The general election brought many changes. Theresa May's slim majority vanished, while Jeremy Corbyn solidified his position as Labour leader.

YouGov analysis of the vote revealed some stark generational differences. Labour was 47 percentage points ahead among first-time voters, while the Conservatives had a 50 percentage point lead among the over-7os. The issue of student finance and Labour's promises undoubtedly played a part and the result has ushered a new dialogue on tuition fees.

The result was a wake-up call for the Conservatives, who have for a long time fostered policies to appeal to their base of older voters but done little for younger ones. Where the Conservatives ruled out a review of tuition fees, Labour promised to abolish them altogether and make education free for all.

Disillusion with the fee system has been building for some time. Sutton Trust research shows English students had the highest levels of debt in the English-speaking world, owing around ?44,000 when they graduate.

When the government revised the system, turning maintenance grants into loans, this increased debt at graduation to around ?50,000 on average - ?57,000 for the poorest students. In turn, our research highlights that most graduates will not pay back this debt until well into middle age, with many never paying it back in full at all.

This creeping debt adds to the growing number of difficulties that young people face, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is already difficult for young college leavers to be hired into graduate roles immediately after university or to take their first step on the housing ladder and, for many, ?50,000 of student debt acts as a further barrier to getting on in life.

With that in mind, the Sutton Trust welcomed the prime minister's announcement to raise the repayment threshold from ?21,000 to ? …

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