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Monday, May 23, 2005

Aging gracefully

A suggestion by Adair Turner, the head of the government-commissioned Pensions Commission, that lower-paid workers should retire on a full pension at 65 to reflect their shorter life expectancy, are interesting to say the least. The question has to be asked however, is his proposal that those who study at university should work until they are 70, related to the fact that students may need this additional period of employment to pay off all the debt the Labour Government is saddling them with through variable top-up fees etc? Perhaps this is a question worth asking in tomorrow's Assembly debate on tuition fees.
You denied being a scaremonger a few days ago…now you claim that “students may need this additional period of employment to pay off all the debt the Labour Government is saddling them with through variable top-up fees”

This will never be the case, as any “debt” left over 25 years after graduating will be WIPED OFF!!

I’m very disappointed that you’ve yet again tried to distort the truth.
Presumably then the secret is to avoid repaying the loans for 25 years and everything will be OK? You really do need to get to grips with the concept of irony, Martyn
But the point is you have made a false statement by saying what you did, which does nothing to contribute to the debate on how we finance higher education, and how we attract more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into HE.

Is there any wonder why, as you claim, so many young people are put off applying to study at University when you make claims that are totally untrue!?

I’m shocked that the Welsh Lib Dem education spokesman is so ignorant to the facts.

I’ve explained this before; you pay back an amount through the tax system, calculated by your annual income. The less you earn, the less you pay back per year, over a longer period of time (up to and no more than 25 years); the more you earn, the more you pay back per year, over a shorter period of time.

The average graduate will expect to repay their loan in around 13 years.

So, someone on a yearly income of £18,000 would pay back £270 a year – with no career break they’d pay back £6,750 – with the remaining £8,000 wiped off.

Someone on a yearly income of £22,000 will pay back £450 a year, over 25 years, which adds up to £11,250, with the remaining £4,000 wiped off.

If we then look at the person on £18,000 a year – taking a career break to raise a family, for example – the total repayment would then becomes £5,000 (payable over the 25 years = £200 a year = £16 (roughly) a month) – with the remaining £10,000 wiped off.

Someone on £30,000 a year - £577 a week – would be expected to pay back £25.96 a week back under the new system in England, against the £34.62 a week they’d pay under the old system.
And you think that it is acceptable that people who are being trained and educated to provide a future for this country should pay such punitive taxation for their education? I expect you will be seeking to recover the cost of post 16 education next and then charging people to send their children to state schools.

It is not me who is claiming that people are put off higher education by debt issues, it is a fact and is backed up by the figures. I dont need to scaremonger I think the figures you quote will be quite sufficient to put people off, especially when they consider living and study expenses on top of that.

With regards to my supposed false statement I cannot be held responsible if New Labour activists are incapable of recognising and dealing with irony.
As a student, who will benefit from having a degree (and hopefully a masters degree), I’m quite happy having to pay for MY education. So yes, I don’t see any reason why students should not pay for PART of the total cost of their degree, to allow more money to be spent on early years and primary education – which is the period of time that really does determine what path a child will take for the rest of its life.

Ah! But the figures quoted above are tuition fees AND living costs added together, and will be paid back as a single amount, that’s why the amounts quoted above are more than the ~ £9,000 you would pay for a 3 year degree.

Are you really trying to suggest that a graduate on an average starting salary of £18,000 would view paying back £270 a year for their degree as being excessive? And that someone on £30,000 a year would mind paying back £25 a WEEK out of the £577 A WEEK they’d be earning would view that as being “put under increased financial pressure”?

If students want to know what “financial pressure” is, I’d invite them to go and visit the orphanage for disabled children in Poland I worked in a few years ago, and see the children there live on £10 a month! And then come back here and complain about having to pay for their higher education!

To suggest that the Labour party would “charge” for post 16 education is absolutely ridiculous. Charging people to send their children to state school? I think you’ve now realised you’re loosing the argument here, by making absurd suggestions with have no place in reality.

We want to, and have increased spending in Early years, primary and secondary education – because those three areas are compulsory for every child. The majority of the education budget should be spent on areas where very single child will benefit.

And I can’t be held responsible for the fact that the Lib Dem education spokesman and the Chair of the Assembly’s education committee does not understand, or maybe does not want to understand, the new finance system in England, and therefore misleads prospective students into believing that they’d be in a much worse off state than what they’d actually be in!
Two points:

1. Most graduates will repay the cost of their degree through taxation anyway. That is the traditional way that education is paid for in this Country. If Labour are abandoning that principle then it is perfectly reasonable to speculate as to how they might extend it in the future.

2. Most Welsh graduates who remain on Wales earn nothing like £30,000 a year. Many work in the public sector on low wages and yet you would burden them with additional punitive taxation. The £15,000 debt you believe they will be burdened with is not just on the low side but a very debilitating burden to start off employment with.

I am sure that your fellow students would not appreciate your dismissing their very real problems in this way. It is no wonder that most of them decided that they could not stomach Labour on May 5th.
To answer your first point, the cost of education, quite rightly, is paid for through taxation. What Labour is saying, is that MORE of the money raised through taxation should be spent on the early years (including child care), primary and secondary education (as all children benefit from those three areas of education). The money raised through taxation will still pay for the large majority of the cost of a degree, but, students should pay a “top up” fee to pay for the remaining cost not covered by the Government. Labour believes it’s more important that the money we COULD divert into HE, and not having fees at all, should go into the early years, primary and secondary education sectors.

If we could have a totally free higher education system, Great! But we don’t live in cloud cuckoo land, neither do we want to live in a country that has unbearable levels of tax (which would almost certainly be the case under a Lib Dem government), which the people of this country would not want, and would almost inevitably damage the economy.

Your second point, and I’ve made this quite clear at several stages in this argument; the new system in England, which, I presume, will be one of the options in the Rees report for HE in Wales, is designed in such a way that if a graduate does end up earning, as you suggest, less than £30,000 a year (and you cant really say for sure that graduates in Wales will inevitably earn less than that throughout their career), then the re-payments will be significantly less; and you’ll find that they wont pay back anywhere near the total amount that they “owe”– because of the 25 year cut off point.

I’m not “dismissing” their “very real problems” at all; I’m just saying that there are millions of people in much worse off situations that have no chance of going to university (like the children in the orphanage in Poland I worked in) – who would love to be in a position to go to University.

Your party’s problem is – you want everything for free, but you don’t come up with a realistic set of proposals on how you’d achieve it. You want free higher education, but you don’t say how many student places you could fund under your proposals. How many elderly people would you be able to offer free long term care to, and for how long? If your local income tax proposal is anything to go by, then I don’t see much promise in your other two ‘flagship proposals’!
The reality of the situation of course is that we did come up with a costed proposal in our manifesto that would have abolished top up fees, introduced free personal care (also defined in the manifesto) and replaced the Council Tax with a local income tax. All of that remains party policy and will do so until the membership decides otherwise.

The actual additional money estimated to go into the HE sector from top up fees is just over £1 billion. That can be met from some of the proceeds of an additional tax on those earning more than £100,000 a year - a redistributive measure that those on the left would normally welcome.

As for how many students, in Wales there are no targets, ask Jane Davidson.
Ok, let me pose a challenge to you.

As you are the Chair of the Education committee, I’m sure you’ll have these figures at your fingertips.

1. How many students currently attend Welsh HEI’s?
2. How many student places would you be able to fund under your proposals?


3. How many people are there in the UK that earn £100,000 or more a year? (knowing this would prove that your party had done its homework and had detailed costing details available)

I’m all in favour of redistribution of wealth, equality of opportunity for all, and social justice – as long as there are robust, coherent and ‘workable’ policies in place to allow it to happen.
1. Do your own research
2. As many as are needed
3. Read the manifesto and its
costings yourself
So I take it you haven’t done the research to find out what all this would cost? If you had, you’d have the research available…wouldn’t you?

“As many as are needed” – are you seriously trying to suggest that the Lib Dem policy for free Higher Education was based on “As many as are needed”?? how can you calculate how much revenue you’d receive if you don’t know how many people in the UK you could put a 50% Income tax on? And how can you promise free higher education when you don’t know how many student places you could fund??

It’s quite clear your policy is fundamentally flawed.
Just because you are too lazy to check it out does not make the policy flawed. The party has done the research and the results are published and available.

The current free Higher Education policy is based on "as many HE places as are needed". What is the problem with this? The costing of the policy is based on replacing the projected income from top-up fees with public funds raised from taxation. That figure is quantifiable and is available in the Regulatory Appraisal to the Education Act.
I hope it wasn’t the same lot who did the research for the local income tax policy, which Simon Hughes, Lib Dem President, described as “a flaw” (Guardian) which contributed to their "disappointing" general election result.”

I shall now return to a state of laziness by continuing revision for my exams, and unless the Lib Dem manifesto has anything about global civil society, cosmopolitan democracy and anti-globalisation movements in it, I don’t intend reading it!
Not only was the research sound on local income tax but so was the policy. Simon Hughes is wrong on this issue.
Peter, a student constituent of yours asks you a legitimate question:

"How many students currently attend Welsh HEI’s?"

Your response: "Do your own research"
I am not a library. As a student Martyn surely appreciates the value of learning through self-help.
No, you’re quite evidently not a library, Peter, but you are the Education spokesman for the Lib Dems and the Chair of the Assembly’s Education committee, so I would expect you to have some idea of how many students there are in Welsh HEI’s.

Unfortunately, my vast collection of books does not include the Liberal Democrat manifesto, Lib Dem focus and research group reports, or any HEFCW or University of Wales statistical reports. It does, however, contain some excellent books on International relations.
All available on-line
Oh dear...
Have all the stats on Welsh HE that you could shake a stick at and if that is not enough why not try HESA?

University of Wales documents would also be useless as they don't include Glamorgan. While I can (just about) understand your point of view, you must also understand that most students (perhaps 99%?) don't agree with your view? And if so you should be repectful of that perhaps? Your figures also don't work in a real world situation most students find themselves in. Ask 20 female students and I bet more than half will have a type of store card. These bad boys charge 30% interest on all purchases, with lots of students using them. Students are not cash 'poor', they are just confined to a lifetime of debt and living with the consequences. Really Martyn have you nothing in your life more important than trolling on other peoples blogs? sheesh!
First of all, you might want to read my response to your reply in an earlier post.

It’s not my problem if you can’t see the bigger picture, and realise that there are other sectors in Education, and many other areas where the Assembly has responsibility for, which might not necessarily affect students directly, that need extra investment.

The figures I quoted was the “debt” incurred by tuition fees and living costs, that would be paid back to the Government, and not any “personal debt”. One of the first things they drill into you when you arrive at University is to draw up a budget, and stick to it. To be blunt, if people spend money on something they can’t afford, then that’s their problem, and it’s about time personal finance education was made compulsory in secondary schools to try and combat this problem. Society need to get away from this “buy now, think about the consequences later” culture quickly, and start acting more responsibly.

Being a school governor in quite a small rural school (the school I went to), we could certainly do with a lot more funding to enable us to carry out workload remodelling, and I’d much rather see the extra investment being spent on childcare, primary and secondary schools than on HE, because as I’ve said in earlier posts, every child goes through primary school and secondary school, but not all of them will go to university (from my year that left the school in 1996, out of the 12 of us, only 3 of us are in University)

And yes, I have much better things to do, such as revising for my exams and WORKING 20 hours a week, but when politicians write rubbish about government policy; then I think I have a right to argue with them about it!
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