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Monday, October 04, 2010


Write to the government

It's 5.45 in the morning, and I've been awake for a long time. Not because my son's keeping me up; he's sleeping perfectly peacefully in my bed. He thinks everything is fine.

Meanwhile, this is what the government is planning for his future.

He already lives in a country where no ordinary working- or middle-class person can afford a decent house. Now the government's planning a country where he won't be able to afford an education either, not unless he takes on massive student debts - even as the credit crunch just showed what happens when people carry too much debt. This is the work of politicians who benefitted from free education themselves; now they're selling off our children's hope of any kind of quality of life.

We have to do everything we can to stop this. Please, please write to everyone you can, and ask everyone you know to do the same. Here are places to start:

The Prime Minister

Nick Clegg

Your local MP

I come from Italy, and I don’t know what it’s like up there, but I can tell you this: we rarely obtain what we want, and when something changes we have the certainty that it’s for the worse (above all in health and instruction).
Theoretically the government works for us, but in everyday life not many believe it anymore. Their power comes from the people, from us, and we are the beasts they exploit to live the good life and own cars and villas et cetera. It is our right and duty to tell them they’re doing wrong when they are, to go against the authority we ourselves have set, to protest. Well, this is what I think.
No italian politician should have ever been trusted with power, but maybe for you it is different, maybe you love and trust those who govern you...
I sincerely hope that you are going to succeed in your crusade, I wish you all the best.
I don't know where they're coming up with those numbers for public universities in the US, either; average costs almost everywhere are much higher - one way or another. And God help you if you're living in campus housing.
Universities here are facing tuition hikes from 7-30% a year, along with staff cuts and lots of pressure on professors to support themselves.
I know Britain's system is different, but the kind of debt load they're talking about can be crippling for students and universities alike.
The problem is, what is the better solution? As a society we need more graduates than we could get from the old system when you and I went to university and got grants and no fees. Universities are horribly underfunded for the job we want them to do.

Given that, I think that this is probably the least horrible way of funding universities that I can think of. Those who directly benefit from an education pay the most, while everyone pays some share. The repayment will be linked to future income, and so will be in some measure progressive; the teacher who earns 25k will not be paying back at as high an interest rate as the financier who ends up earning 250k. There is a level of government support for the least well off and it allows for us to pay for the highly educated graduates that we need to make our economy work.

verification code: Peeana (a) The command given to a female fresher who is fidgetting after drinking too much
I am many weeks late commenting, but I did have to propose a small correction to Donalbain's comment. With respect, the thing about universities is that everyone, the whole society, benefits from what they do, which is knowledge production and training citizens to think critically. Universities are also the places where all teachers are trained, so they truly do train all citizens, albeit in some cases at a bit of a remove.

It is only vocational and professional schools that can be thought of as more directly benefiting those who attend than the society at large, and given the importance of, say, computer programmers, auto mechanics, and engineers, I'm not sure I'd want to defend the argument that they aren't a benefit to all of us as much as to those who attend.
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