Friday, October 6, 2017

Tuition in Britain

British universities used to be tuition-free for British citizens. Then, starting in 1998, they phased in tuition at a high level, accompanied by fairly generous grant and loan programs for students who couldn't afford the tab. A new study says the effects were generally benign:
Despite increasing financial pressures on higher education systems throughout the world, many governments remain resolutely opposed to the introduction of tuition fees, and some countries and states where tuition fees have been long established are now reconsidering free higher education. This paper examines the consequences of charging tuition fees on university quality, enrollments, and equity. To do so, we study the English higher education system which has, in just two decades, moved from a free college system to one in which tuition fees are among the highest in the world. Our findings suggest that England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head, rising enrollments, and a narrowing of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. In contrast to other systems with high tuition fees, the English system is distinct in that its income-contingent loan system keeps university free at the point of entry, and provides students with comparatively generous assistance for living expenses. We conclude that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.
Tuition in and of itself does not keep poor kids from going to college, so long as there is financial aid. In fact one thing universities in England have done is to offer poor students grants for living expenses, funded by tuition on wealthier students. This may explain why even though Scotland has abolished tuition for its universities, English universities have more poor students and a generally more diverse student body.

The main beneficiaries of abolishing universities tuition would be upper middle class college students and their families. This is why I think we should keep university tuition high but make community college free; that way we would be subsidizing people who are much more likely to need the help.

In England leftists have generally left off complaining about tuition, since lowering it would mainly benefit people who don't need help, and suggested that the money be spent instead on secondary schools.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

From a logical standpoint, the difference between a tuition-free system and a system with financial aid that covers tuition is that in the former, no one can be denied.

If you are reliant on financial aid to attend a school, you suddenly become beholden to whomever grants that aid. You can be denied that aid, for a variety of reasons, and in some cases those reasons don't even need to be disclosed, or can't be appealed.

Thus, the effective difference is one of control. By introducing purse strings to pull in the form of financial aid, you can influence or even control your students in new ways.

For example, in a tuition-free system, a student athlete who plays football for their school can attend whatever college they qualify for, full stop. But if that same student athlete is reliant on financial aid, they can lose that aid if they underperform or behave in controversial or undesired ways.

In a tuition-free system, you can get kicked off the sports team and still get to pursue your education. You're still a student of the school with all the benefits and privileges that entails.

But in a financial aid system, getting booted from the team causes you to lose your scholarship, which in turn forces you to drop out of the school entirely. One less person to worry about taking up space in classes, in dormatories, in the cafeteria, in the school's records and databases, et cetera. One less student the school has to spend resources on. And since there's no shortage of eager young athletes out there that the school's sports team can draw on to replace them with, that spot in the system's systems can now be given to someone who will hopefully be more profitable for the sports team and the institution in general.