November 3, 2010

New plan to keep college affordable

With the cost of college on the rise, Britain may have found a way to make higher education more affordable without draining government coffers.

A recent report entitled “Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education,” which contains the findings of a year-long investigation into the costs of college in Britain, suggests that university students should not have to pay for their education until after they have graduated, and then only once they are earning ₤21,000 a year (about $34,000). Those not in well-paying jobs would not have to pay anything.

The proposal follows the realization that a tuition cap at British universities is unsustainable in the current economy. Currently, universities may not charge citizens of the U.K. more than ₤3,290 ($5,275) a year for tuition.

The report also recommends that the amount of government funding for education not change. This seems unlikely, however, as the government wants to cut 25 percent of most departments’ budgets, including that of education.

“Universities think they’re going to keep getting the same level of support from the state,” Ellen Hazelkorn, head of the Higher Education Policy Unit at the Dublin Institute of Technology, told the New York Times. “They’re not.”

Still, the current political environment remains unwelcoming to the proposal. In early October, 57 members of parliament signed a pledge that they would work to abolish tuition fees at British universities.

“I think [the proposal] is a kind of appeasement,” senior Katie Johnston said. Johnston, who studied abroad in London during the fall of her junior year, noted that British education is very inexpensive by U.S. standards.

“Then [the universities] realized they had to keep paying their professors, and there were other costs, so they had to find some source of funding,” she said.

Despite the grim prospects for inexpensive higher education, the political attitude towards tuition hikes in Britain has been hostile. As the New York Times noted, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote that the legislation that most endangered his job was a tuition increase early in his tenure.

To American students facing college tuition costs that can approach $200,000 by the time they graduate, however, the proposal is extremely appealing.

“I’m moving to Britain,” junior Audrey Todd said.

“Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education” was published by the Independent Review of Higher Education and Student Finance in England. The review began in November of 2009 with the charge of making recommendations on the “future of fees policy and financial support for full and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students,” according to the

Anna Meier

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