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The BBC, the £51,000 Student Debt - it ( and everyone else) just does not get it

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 6 July 2017

A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that the average student is now leaving colleague with debts of £51,000 a figure seized on by the left and the liberal media as a sign that everything should be handed out for free. The right insisted that it showed how the system was working. Everybody lied.

The IFS report also suggested that over half of students would end up not repaying their debts at all. And that is the massive elephant in the room all chose to ignore. Naturally the BBC managed to grasp the wrong end of the nettle firmly in both hands. On the Radio 4 Today programme John Humphries quizzed a spokesman for Britain's universities insisting that such terrifying debts will scare clever folks from poor backgrounds from going to get their - in far too many cases - worthless degrees. Natch Channel 4 Fake News took the same line.

Okay it is one not born out by the facts. The number of folks from poor homes going to University has, in fact, never been higher. And why not, if you a smart 18 year old whether rick or poor this is a nil brainer: go to Uni for three years to get your 2-1 as almost everyone does these days. If you then get a good job as a result of that degree you pay back the loan. If you don't you don't!. What is not to like?

In the old days 10% of 18 year olds went to University. They were the elite. They got degrees in proper subjects from proper universities and generally got good jobs as a result. That still happens now for the elite. Go to Oxford and pay £9,000 a year and that should set you up for a good job. In the old days academically weaker young folks did not go to Uni and generally earned less. These days they also pay £9,000 a year to go to De Montfort Uni ( 2 Es entrance needed) but will end up, at best, stacking shelves at Tesco and so will never earn enough to pay back the loan.

The impulse of the BBC and Channel 4 Fake News is to parrot Jeremy Corbyn's line which is that these vast debts deter smart kids from poor families. The facts show this is rubbish but we live in a post fact era. The Tories, on the other hand, blather on about more poor kids going to great universities thanks to this wonderful self-funding student loan system. They boast how the burdern on an expanded uni system is now ,rightly, largely carried by those who benefit rather than ordinary working folks without degrees who don't. Except that is a lie.

The stunning level of default means that the expansion of universities has been funded not by students, not by adding to the deficit but by adding to the debt. More than half of student loans issued are assets which will turn out to be worthless. And as such that gap will have to be funded by the UK state taking on yet more debt - you may remember we have the highest State debt in the EU already and if we were honest about matters such as student loan defaults it would be higher still.

The question the BBC and the media should have asked is why we are lumbering the taxpayer, most of whom will not have enjoyed three years at Uni, with vast future liabilities on student loans that are never repaid which have produced young folk whose education is not good enough to obtain a job earning even £21,000 a year. The degrees, it seems, are worthless, the debts are for all of us to pay in the years that lie ahead.

Natch the BBC and Channel 4 Fake News believe in Money Trees so it would not occur to them to ask such a question.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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