GOVERNMENT plans to increase university fees will deter young people from going on to Higher Education and could have a significant impact on the wider economy, according to Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds.
Plans, announced by the Government, will allow universities to charge up to £9000-a-year for tuition, which is THREE times more than the current limit.
That means that typically - when living costs are taken into account - students could end a three-year degree course at one of the country's top-performing universities with debts in excess of £40,000.
The Government claims the move is necessary to give financial support to universities and to support students from lower income families.
But Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds believes the current proposals will do neither.
In direct contrast he believes they will impact negatively on the Higher Education sector and the economy as a whole.
He says income from increased fees is unlikely to replace the funding that has been already been cut by the Government in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
And he says the mounting cost of a university education will deter many talented students from applying.
He said: "Access to university education must be determined by academic ability - and not ability to pay.
"But the risk with these proposals is that a generation of young people will be deterred from higher education solely because of the cost.
"I know from talking to sixth formers in Stalybridge and Hyde that cost is already a real factor in their decision whether or not to go to university.
"In the future if they want to go to one of our top universities they will face tuition fees of £9000 a year - and typically would graduate with debts of £40,000. That is a daunting level of debt.
"Already too few young people in Stalybridge and Hyde progress to university. And I fear these changes will only make Higher Education less attractive for young people in our area.
"This increase in tuition fees is likely to deter a generation of young people from applying to university. And without talented graduates we may not have the people we need to drive our economy forward."
Mr Reynolds is one of a small number of MPs who have first-hand experience of paying off student debt. He studied Politics and Modern History at Manchester University more than 10 years go. And he is continuing to pay off his student loan.
He said: "I benefited greatly from a university education and would encourage anyone with the determination and the necessary academic ability to consider it.
"But I know from personal experience, that the level of debt incurred during a degree does have an impact for years to follow.
"And - if I had to do it again - choosing to follow a path that incurred a significantly higher level of debt would be something I would have had to consider very carefully."
Although Mr Reynolds believes it's right for students to make a contribution towards the cost of their university education, he says that it is wrong to transfer the entire cost to students.
And he says he would like the Government to consider the option of a 'graduate tax', which he believes may be a fairer way to fund Higher Education.
He said: "A graduate tax system would mean graduates would make a contribution to the costs of their university education based on what they earn and what they can afford.
"I believe this is the system that would be less likely to deter students from applying for a university place, because they would only pay more if they earned more."
Published November 9, 2010