Fees: “Almost impossible to understand”

According to a piece in the Guardian.

Some students have been put off applying because the funding system is now among the most complex in the world, says the report by the consultancy London Economics, commissioned by Million+, a group representing former polytechnic universities previously known as the Coalition of Modern Universities. “The combination of differential fees, fee loans, maintenance loans, fee grants, maintenance grants, bursaries and the education maintenance allowance make the entire package almost impossible to understand,” it says.

Millions

Even if it is accepted that the system is complicated, it clearly cannot be so incredibly difficult otherwise no-one would actually be entering HE. And part of the deal over fees remains that institutions have a mission to explain. Universities have to tell applicants about the costs but also about the bursaries and grants available to them.

Numbers entering HE continue to rise so clearly some are understanding what is going on. As for the impact on widening participation, it is not clear that students from non-traditional or lower family income backgrounds are being deterred. Moreover, the argument has been that it is fear of debt (misplaced) rather than complexity which is acting as a deterrent. Can it be both?

And anyway, shouldn’t the brightest graduates of tomorrow have the core numeracy skills required to understand a system of fees, grants, loans and bursaries?

The report itself is available here and it is clearly a little more measured than the press release which prompted this story, highlighting the need for whole system review rather than piecemeal change but also the complications caused by the differences across countries within the UK.

(And as for the entertaining rebranding of CMU as Million+, see the Mortarboard for details.)

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