Steve slams Lib Dems on tuition fee hike

Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe has taken part in a debate on the increase in university fees y
“The Lib Dems have let students down. In my world a pledge means a solemn and binding promise and that’s why I can’t find words to describe the contempt I felt when I discovered that at the very same time as LibDem leaders and candidates were touring campuses, signing their pledges, posing for photographs and asking students to help deliver their leaflets, Danny Alexander was in his lair producing a report on scrapping not fees but scrapping the pledge."
Steve added:
“Before the election all their proposals had been independently audited and fully costed – that’s what honest Vince wanted us to believe. But now they say they have been forced into this new policy because of their fear of the deficit. But this new policy requires off balance sheet borrowing which will have just as big an impact on the deficit. This makes no sense.
 “It makes as little sense as the Coalition claim that a graduate tax is unworkable; the LibDems didn’t always believe that.  Apparently it doesn’t fill the funding gap – no it doesn’t. But whether you borrow on or off the balance sheet  -  it’s the same. The universities need money upfront, the government is going to borrow against the deferred fee income of students and give it to universities.  Doesn’t sound that there’s a great deal of difference in that argument.
“Why the Lib Dems think that an upfront fee will encourage more graduates to remain in the country than a graduate tax is also beyond me. The fee will mean for many a debt that will take 30 years to pay back; one that’s basically levelled for high earners and against women and those who work in the public services.  In most cases this will mean people paying, apart from the high earners, until their early 50s while at the same time they’re supposed to be finding money for a mortgage and contributing more to their pensions and putting something aside for their own youngsters’ university aspirations.
 “And then they try to argue that foreign students wouldn’t pay a graduate tax. We’re not talking about foreign students; we’re talking about British students, our students. Foreign students should pay upfront fees as normal.  Although the way things are - they’ll be the only people to afford to go to an English university; apart from the off spring of the Old Etonians and maybe the occasional lottery winner or bank robber. Yet again the coalition seems to have no sense of what we call the squeezed middle: the senior teachers, police sergeants  and nurses.
“Their callous disregard is not just for the squeezed middle, however. Bright children from poorer backgrounds have also been targeted through their cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance and plans to scrap Aim Higher. Now the Coalition has turned its focus on the student grant.
 “The requirement for universities to provide bursaries is to be dropped. But are they going to increase the maximum grant, currently £3250 per year, to match the maximum fee per annum? Or is it right to say that this government is using the Browne Review as cover for an attack on university numbers, access and funding? At a time when our major competitors are all expanding access to higher education, we have the misfortune to be saddled with a coalition which thinks that less graduates, poorer teaching, more debt and unaffordable fees is the route to securing the jobs and businesses needed in the high value, knowledge based economy of the future?"


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