UK Labour Party Pledges to Cut Tuition Fees for University Students

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UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is expected to promise UK’s younger voters a cut in tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year if his party returns to power.

Miliband is also saying that pension tax relief for the wealthy needs to be cut to fund universities because of the loss of income which will result from lowered tuition fees. Patrick Wintour, reporting for The Guardian, reports that Miliband is being pressed by educators, the National Union of Students, and former cabinet members to look for alternate reforms to the system of student grants. A “maintenance grant system” is important to middle-class parents, but has been neglected in the debate over higher education funding reform. The number of older voters is growing, and that demographic is more likely to vote than younger voters – and they lend support for the Tories.

The student vote generally has a liberal leaning favoring the Greens, while the Conservatives focus on the over-75s and are defended by the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The secretary has pushed to make saving pay, as well as making work pay.

Still, Miliband believes that a better deal for the younger generation is “a sign of intergenerational responsibility.” He adds that training and educating young people is important to to mend the UK productivity crisis, and he wants the next generation to have lives better than the last, filled with opportunity, prosperity, and wellbeing.

“We may not have given it a name in the way that Americans talk about the ‘American Dream’, but it is there nevertheless. But for the first time in generations, there is now a real fear that the British promise will be broken and the next generation will find it harder to get on than the last.”

A study done by the Institute of Fiscal Studies showed that the employment rate for those in their 20s had fallen, while employment among older individuals had not. Real pay for young workers had fallen and has not for older workers as well. Even so, in some university areas voting registration has fallen by more than 10%. Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said the decline is a disaster for democracy and students.

Nick Hillman, writing for The Telegraph, says the Labour Party has had five years to come up with a policy on student fees, and now, with only five weeks left before the dissolution of of Parliament, there is still no proposal.  Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is ultimately responsible for coming up with a plan, but recently stated that the process was “tortuous and difficult.” Higher education funding, he adds, seems to bring out the worst in politicians. The Labour Party has three options: a lower fee cap; a graduate tax; or a commitment to a post-election review, none of which seem politically or fiscally viable.

The Telegraph reports that Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Morley and Outwood and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls says he is not fighting with Miliband over the party’s tuition fees policy. He explained that his job was to make the finances add up if tuition fees are cut. He agrees with Miliband that there is a need for a fairer system when it comes to student finance such as a student graduate tax.

“The thing is, the current system of student finance is not working for students who are paying more and for the taxpayer, which has got a massive, growing burden of debt because of this failed policy,” he says. “In the next few days we will set out, clearly, our policy and I think … if you are a student you will like it.”