Parents fear financial burden of higher tuition fees may be too much to bear

“What is going to happen to all the students whose parents can’t afford to support their children to go to university?

This is the question being asked by Grace Dorset, a single parent from North London, in response to the Government’s plan to raise tuition fees.

The government’s proposal to remove the cap on tuition fees following the Browne review means that instead of paying £3,290 per, students may have to fork out as much as £12,000, depending on the university.

On top of the fees, students will also have to take out a maintenance loan to cover living costs while studying away from home. But whilst much of the backlash has come from teachers’ and students’ unions, parents like Grace are also seething with anger.

The higher fees will be effective from the 2012 academic year if agreed by parliament. So students who have just started their A levels will be the first to be saddled with higher fees.

But parents are worried that ultimately they too will be saddled with debt in the process of helping to support their children to attend university, whether it is during their studies or after graduation.

“I think it is unfair and selfish for the government to even consider raising fees. I don’t think that they have got their priority straight about how important education is. Where would they go and what would they do? The government needs to think about that,” Grace added.

In order to soften the blow of higher fees, the government plans to raise the threshold at which graduates start repaying student loans. At present they can earn up to £15,000 before loan repayments commence but this will increase to £21,000.

Nine per cent of graduates’ income will be deducted from their salary and the interest will rise according to the rate of inflation whether their earnings are above or below the £21,000 threshold.

Graduates will also have to wait an additional five years for their student debt to be written off by the government, as the Spending Review suggests increasing the current 25 years to 30 years after graduating.

May Campbell has two children, one of whom has already attended university and one who will be attending in the next few years.

She told People with Voices that it had been stressful supporting her first child during university and that she expected it to be far worse when tuition fees are raised.

“When my daughter went to university a couple years ago, she didn’t have to pay for tuition fees and was even given a grant from our local council. So between her part time job and the support from me, she only had to take out a small loan amounting to less than £10,000.”

But Ms Campbell says: “I won’t be able to pay £6000 fees every year and support living costs when my son goes to university. I think that will put my son off from going to university and that breaks my heart that he can’t have the same opportunity as my daughter.”

College student Myia Scott, 17, plans to attend university next year and is relieved that she will escape the higher tuition fees. She told People with Voices:

“I am working extremely hard to pass my A levels because I want to go to university next year. If I don’t get to go next year I probably won’t go at all because I don’t think it’s worth paying all that money…you may not even get a job after uni.”

Myia told People with Voices that it is unfair to place such a heavy financial burden on students and their parents:

“My mum and dad will support me if I had to pay, but that will mean they will go into debt because of me and that’s not fair. I feel really sorry those who will be affected by these changes.”