Ed Miliband has just announced that if we're elected in May a Labour Government would reduce tuition fees and increase student maintenance grants from September 2016.
This means current freshers (1st year students) will pay £6,000 for their final year of study instead of the current £9,000 and students entering uni this September will pay £6,000 for their final two years with all students entering the system from 2016 onwards paying £6,000 a year for the entirety of their studies.
This puts right a fundamental inter-generational unfairness that is built into the £9,000 fee regime. Because £9,000 fees are so high it is estimated that 45% of graduates will have a proportion of their debts wiped clean but this simply means transferring that debt onto the books of the Government in 30 years time meaning that same generation will then face higher taxes and public service cuts to pay for the £21billion a year deficit that the £9,000 fees policy would create from 2035 onwards.
The £9,000 fees policy was not only a betrayal from Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats who individually pledged not to vote for a rise in fees only to vote through a trebling of them but it was also an act of dodgy accounting by George Osborne by shifting huge debts onto future taxpayers whether they went to university or not.
Miliband also announced that we would increase student maintenance grants by £400 a year from September 2016 too helping students address the rising cost of living - particularly sky-rocketing accommodation costs.
Whilst there is no university in Newbury we are a constituency with one of the highest proportions of young people applying for Higher Education so I know that these policies will be a great help for young people in Newbury and if I'm elected I'll personally campaign for Government to go further look at regulating student rents.
In a final part of the announcement Labour have said its our long-term aspiration still to overhaul the whole funding system and replace tuition fees and debt with a graduate tax and we'll work on the costings for such a system in Government. This would be a fairer system because it would eliminate interest from the system which punishes lower earning students who can't pay their fees up front or take longer to pay their fees back and would instead reverse it by charging the highest earning graduates progressively more.
Today's announcement on maintenance grants is funded by a step in the direction of a graduate tax by charging higher interest for the top earning graduates and we would fund today's fees cut by restricting tax relief on pensions for the highest earners.