Socialist Worker

Blair's top-up fees will hit working families

Issue No. 1881

TONY BLAIR claims that top-up fees will make the education system fairer and less elitist. He tries to appeal to ordinary people, asking why low paid hospital workers who did not go to university should pay for 'middle class' students to study.

But it is precisely people like low paid hospital workers who will be hit hardest.

New Labour wants to impose top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year on students. According to the government's White Paper published earlier this year, any student whose parents have a combined income of £25,000 will not get a penny to help pay their fees. A hospital worker married to a postal worker would probably be just outside that limit.

These are not middle class people-they are low paid workers, and it is them and their children who will pay the price if fees are brought in.

Students would have to borrow more money to fund their education-adding to the huge debts students have already incurred to pay for their living costs. Average student debt is expected to spiral to £21,000 if top-up fees are introduced.

Studies show that students whose parents earn less end up with more debt and are more likely to be put off from going to university. If Blair gets his way a tiny minority of the very poorest students will get small handouts while the vast majority have to find thousands each year to fund their education.

The rich won't notice the cost of top-up fees. But the low paid workers Blair and Clarke claim to be helping will.

An easy way to fund the universities

BLAIR AND his cronies in government want working class families to pay for the funding crisis in our universities.

If Blair gets away with introducing top-up fees, they won't stay at £3,000 a year. Research carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that top-up fees would only raise around £500 million a year.

This will not solve the funding crisis in British universities. Top-up fees would almost certainly be raised even higher to help plug this gap. This would take Britain down the same road as US universities, where the top 'Ivy League' institutions like Harvard and Yale can charge as much as £17,000 each year.

The government claims there is no real alternative to top-up fees. But there is.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already cost £5.5 billion, 11 times more than top-up fees are likely to raise. Reversing Blair's tax breaks for the rich and returning to the rates of income tax for the rich under Thatcher's government would raise £22 billion, over 40 times more than top-up fees.

The fairest and simplest way to pay for education is to raise income tax for the rich.

Some of today's wealthy elite went to university, for free, when far less people went and when degrees made a bigger difference to earnings. Others just inherited loads of money.

Why should today's students have to pay when degrees make far less difference to earning power than they used to? But making the very rich pay for the university system is the very thing that Blair has ruled out.

Council Tax

Police cause tax hikes

HIGH SPENDING police authorities are a big factor in spiralling council tax bills.

An investigation by the Audit Commission watchdog into rises of up to 13 percent pointed the finger at the police. The commission found that the government shared the blame for the rises because of the redistribution of grants.

But it reserved particular criticism for the police, who it said were responsible for 13 out of the 20 highest rises in the tax.

In North Yorkshire, for example, the police authority increased its budget by a massive 30 percent. Taxpayers faced an increase of 76 percent in the part of their bills used to pay the police.

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Sat 13 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1881
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