Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lib Dem Counsillor says fees rise is not a burden

Photo: Liberal Democrat Councillor Duwayne Brooks

Lib Dem Councillor encourages dodging Student Finance repayments as a solution to the expected “crippling” hike in tuition fees.

Duwayne Brooks, Councillor for Lewisham urged young people from low income households and single parent families not to fear the prospect of increased student finance debt as it is “unlikely” they will ever have to pay it off.

Comparing the options some young people from poorer backgrounds face of staying in education or turning to a life of crime, Brooks revealed in an interview: “I can go to university and come out with a debt of £36,000, I’m never going to get bailiffs knocking on the door, I’m never going to have anyone chasing me down for the money.”

Suggesting that most graduates will never earn enough to pay back their tuition fees and loans, so therefore, they should stop complaining.

Challenging the mentality of some young people who would rather earn a living through illegal means instead of choosing higher education with the burden of inherent debt, Brooks added: “Do you want to continue selling drugs or do you want to show your children in the future that they can be successful [through legal means]?

“You’ll never get asked to pay the money back, how is it a burden?”

Coming from a Liberal Democrat party member, after the party turned shy on its pre-election promise to oppose tuition fees all together will be a cynical pill for the parents and the wider public to swallow.

Many share Brooks’ opinion however, as well the government who says that the lowest-earning 25 per cent of graduates will pay less than they currently do. Including half of all graduates who will not have paid off the full amount after 30 years, by which time the remaining debt is wiped out anyway.

Following the Browne report in October the government put forward proposals to remove the current cap on tuition fees at Universities across the country, which will see some intuitions charge up to £9,000 per year. These proposals will almost certainly come into effect in September 2012, and has already got some young people and their parents concerned.

A-level student Julia Victoria, 17, said: “I’ve got to consider seriously if it’s worth me still considering university or not, if I spend the next five years working my way up I’ll be in good pay anyway and without huge debt hanging over my head.”

The uproar from students and parents could however be hiding a far greater issue. If a large number of students are, as the Lib Dem Counsellor Duwayne Brooks believes, unlikely to ever pay it all back, how will raising the fees make any positive difference to the economy? If the money will “never” be paid back, leaving the state to foot the bill, why not raise fees to £20,000 or £100,000?

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One show, Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams, who spoke for his party on higher education before the election, told the programme last week that his party wanted to move away from Labours’ fees system to a fairer system – and that the new system is fairer.

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