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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Should rich students pay more?
Students from wealthier homes should pay higher charges so that poorer students can be given financial help, says a group of influential MPs.

More "realistic" student loans, higher interest rates for the better off and higher tuition fees are all recommendations by the Commons education select committee.

They say that the existing system has failed to get more working class students into higher education.

But many students are worried about the prospect of further debt.

Graduates typically have debts of around 10,000, but studies show that they are more likely to become high earners.

Do you think the rich should pay higher fees? What do you think about student loans?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The so-called "wealthy" are already contributing far more to the state than they receive back. The wealthy will pay more tax and national insurance than the less well-off. The wealthy do not enjoy any of the tax breaks enjoyed by the less-well off e.g. family tax credit, children's tax credit. So to say that the wealthy receive a cheap education is not strictly fair.

The Government also needs to be careful in tinkering with the system. I understand from news articles that parents are already responding to the bias towards state school applications by taking their children out of private school for their A levels. If the fees the wealthy have to pay are very high, maybe you will find more parents taking early retirement or finding other ways of reducing their assessable income once their children start attending college.
Martin, UK

They should have the decency to accord the next generation the privileges they themselves enjoyed

Kevin, England
When the fat cat MPs begin paying back the country for the cost of the education they received for free, then they will have the right to call for higher student fees. Until then, they should have the decency to accord the next generation the privileges they themselves enjoyed.
Kevin, England

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a system whereby rich students paid for their own maintenance at university, and poor students didn't. There was not enough university accommodation to go round, so housing benefit was available to help if private rents were too high. What happened to this system? The universities became a tool to reduce unemployment figures. More people were encouraged to go to university - but (amazingly) it proved more expensive than paying them benefit. So governments started clawing back the financial support. First to go was housing benefit - and at the same time rent controls were scrapped. Rents soared and debt rose (who could possibly have predicted that?).

Now we have a situation which is designed to land students with large debts, much to the delight of banks, who dearly love people to get into the habit of living on credit. And students from low-income backgrounds? They're out in the cold. The only unexpected thing here is that people are surprised. It was obviously going to happen. The solution is obvious, but unlikely to be implemented: revert to a system much closer to the old method of funding.
Guy Chapman, UK

I came from a working class background and received a full grant. I would not go to university now, as it is too expensive. The government have steadily made it more and more expensive to go to University, and then express surprise that people from working class background don't go! This proposal is likely to price out another group as well. A group that actually already believes in a good education.

Sure the super rich will be able to go, but you will end up forcing out the majority of people. Education is an investment in the whole of society, not just the individuals. Sure the individuals gain, but they do pay more tax than they would have if they hadn't gone on to university.
Steve Thursby, UK

I have studied in three Western countries and never seen such student obsession with alcohol as in Britain. If students are so hard up they should stop going to the bar. And if they can afford to drink, better allocate funds for single mothers, infrastructure and alike.
Jan, Cambridge, UK

Education should be free to all

Grant Valentine, England
Simply asking rich students to pay more is not necessarily the answer. A student whose family is on 10,000 a year will receive only 1,000 less in student loan than a student whose family earns 100,000 per year - which is clearly wrong. Education should be free to all (the rich and the poor).
Grant Valentine, England

Who are the "rich students"? According to this government, it could be members of families on slightly below the national average income and better. These families will be expected to support their adult children's education to the same extent as a family whose parents might be, let's say, a very senior cabinet minister and a leading barrister.
John, UK

Got to agree with Thierry on this one. I can't speak for today, but when I was at Uni 10 years ago I don't remember many students being hard-up. Most of them seemed to come from fairly well-off backgrounds with parents who more than subsidised their meagre grants allowing them to drink and party themselves into oblivion 24/7.
B Roberts, UK

I graduated from two top British universities, and I can tell you that 50% of students wouldn't have debts if they didn't spend so much time in the student union bar.
Thierry, Netherlands/ UK

The government should generously pay the living expenses and fees of all UK students. When they get good jobs, they'll have to pay tax. In the long run, it's better than paying out benefits to the unemployed. The more money graduates earn, the more tax they have to pay. Think of it as an investment.
Geoff Ma, UK

Rich students already pay more - if you're even moderately well off you're excluded from a whole raft of discretionary awards and training grants available to the poor. I'd prefer to see a 100% clawback of all state-provided higher education payments from those students who drop out of university without completing their courses; maybe the threat of that would reduce the number of people who go to university with no intention of graduating.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

All the usual distortions appearing again: the average graduate starting salary of 30,000 a year is a little strange as no-one I know earns anywhere near that over eight years after graduating. And what is the government's concept of "rich"? Anyone who has a mortgage and children in London and the south east would be struggling to get by even on a good salary.
Phil, UK

A very sensible approach and I've said so for years

Baz, UK
It's a very sensible approach and I've said so for years. It's criminal to see some students going into debt, whilst wealthy families get what is for them a cheap education. Education is important to everyone, and costs should be banded in accordance with family wealth.
Baz, UK

It is noble to redistribute wealth and opportunity but one must distinguish between children and parents. Financial assistance for students allows them to live independently of their parents. Parental control, rather than influence over their children's degree choice is concerning. It would be better if we saw a rise in income tax, perhaps only for graduates. This would tax only those who could pay, preventing the terrible situation many new graduates find themselves in - a mountain of debt and a poorly paid job.
Andrew Bartlett, UK

See also:

11 Jul 02 | UK Education
11 Jul 02 | UK Education
22 Apr 02 | UK Education
10 Jul 02 | UK Education
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