Monday, January 26, 2004

Britain’s Vanguard

Today, Tony Blair faces "a make-or-break 24 hours, which could determine whether he leads Labour into the next election." The reason? A report on the government's role in the suicide of Dr. David Kelly and… a university fee hike.

Blair wants universities to be able to charge students up to a maximum of £3,000 annually, up from the current £1,125. The establishment is up in arms against such a regressive proposal. The British National Union of Students (NUS) has launched and is lobbying hard against the hike with the support of liberal Labour MPs.

NUS is upset that the plan “represents a shifting of the financial burden of education onto the individual student” [from middle and lower class taxpayers who might not even get a chance to go to college] (pdf). It also warns of the misery that private higher education represents in other countries while tax-supported education liberates students to pursue their cherished dreams:

Agnes Gautier, France: “In France you don't hear about student debt because students don't have debt. Most students don't have to take out loans from banks because tuition fees are so cheap.”

Willem Glasbergen, Netherlands: "At present, my total debt is £40,000 after 5 years of studying, from which £8,000 will be deducted as a grant if I graduate within 10 years of starting my degree."

Karen Palinski, United States: "Many Americans aged between 26-32 can’t afford to buy a first house and even have to put off having children due to their student loan debts. Let's hope the UK doesn’t get to this point."

NUS, of course, does not mention that many Europeans can't afford to buy a house, period, because of outrageous taxes. This year in the UK, income £30,500 above the “personal allowance” of £4,615 is subject to a rate of 40%! In the US, a little less outrageously, the rate is almost the same for couples jointly making over $300,000.

So, what does NUS propose instead of the new fee schedule? “The abolition of all forms of charging students or graduates for their education.” And, “the introduction of a non-means tested grant that accurately reflects the cost of living.”

If this is its next generation of politicians, Europe’s future looks bleak indeed.

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