Another reason why £9000 tuition is a bad idea

Effective legal aid is essential to the running mental health law. Anyone who works in the field knows that the considerable bulk of people admitted to psychiatric facilities have few if any assets; without effective legal aid they will not have effective representation. It is disturbing that no one appears to have given serious thought to the effect of high tuition fees on legal aid practice.

Let’s do the math. Three years for an LLB at £9000 per year, plus living costs, plus a year of LPC and the living costs for that (and remember that legal aid firms, unlike city firms, won’t be paying for that final year) means that people entering law school next year will be accumulating something in the range of £80,000 in debt by the time they qualify – something in excess of half a mortgage in much of the country.

The only sensible choice for those people is to pay that off as quickly as possible – and that means getting out of legal aid work into higher paid private work as soon as reasonably possible. Legal aid work will be done only by people who don’t have the debt – the kids of relatively wealthy parents, who have paid the university fees as they go along – or by people who can’t get the private work. That does not sound like a sensible way to run a system.

I appreciate that there are lots of pressures on legal aid at the moment – but starting people off with that kind of debt really is storing up problems for the future.

And nobody in the tuition debate seems to want to talk about that.

Peter Bartlett

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4 thoughts on “Another reason why £9000 tuition is a bad idea

  1. No one in the “tuition debate” wants to talk about it because people who spread massive inaccuracies (like you) risk making the situation far worse by discouraging people who think they can’t afford to pay for their education.

    Okay, so where to start. First, let’s separate out the costs of degree and LPC. The LPC has always been expensive and is often covered by a loan, a real debt. I don’t propose to comment on that, it’s a bad situation but one that’s existed for years and years.

    The second is tuition fees and living expenses whilst a student. When I was a student, in 1998, I had to pay £1000 tuition fees, up front each year. On top of that I was entitled to a student loan that I would pay back at 9% of my income over 15K.

    It look me about 8 years to pay off my student loan. And each year I had to have my parents’ earnings assessed to see if my local authority thought that my mum could give me £1000 up front to pay for my fees.

    The “current” system is that fees of around £3.5K a year are paid for by a loan that any student can take – so there’s no cost up-front. Living expenses are similarly provided for by loan, both of which are paid back at 9% of income over £15K for up to 25 years, or until it is paid of, whichever happens soonest. It is not a ‘debt’, as it doesn’t affect credit rating and is irrelevant to getting a mortgage.

    The “new” system, will be fees of up to £9K a year, paid for by a loan that all students can take – so there’s no cost up front. Living expenses are similarly provided for by loan, both of which are paid back at 9% of income over £21K for up to 30 years, or until it is paid of, whichever happens soonest. It is not a ‘debt’, as it doesn’t affect credit rating and is irrelevant to getting a mortgage. The £21K threshold will rise each year, and institutions that charge £9K are forced to put a significant amount of money into bursaries and grants.

    The upshot is, that under the new scheme, well-off graduates will pay more than they currently do over time. Less well-off graduates will pay less, both *each month* and in total, than under the old scheme. It’s actually a better system for those in low paid jobs, like perhaps, legal aid lawyers.

    So frankly, it’s absolute rubbish to say, as you do, that the new scheme “means getting out of legal aid work into higher paid private work as soon as reasonably possible”.

  2. Left-Hander’s comment is the usual repetition of the government’s view. Fair enough. It does pre-suppose that people will be happy going through life with stonking debts. On that point, perhaps Left-Hander and I know different poor and middle-income people.

    I would note that the American system of student loans also claims to be ‘affordable’ for students, but that the effects have long been identified as discouraging students entering into legal aid work: see, eg., James White, ‘The Impact of Law Student Debt upon the Legal Profession’, 39 J Legal Education (1989) 725 at 732-3.

    PB

  3. 16 April 2012
    I believe that tuition fees are wrong. I also believe that students should have grants. It was only a few years ago that Government stopped this system.

    Yet the UK is still one of the wealthiest nations.
    Why do we not support our students in whatever profession they go into?

    ***Law and Medicine are notoriously expensive vis-a-vis the books an software, yet where are the Government grants to pay for the students to learn?

    Bring back proper free university education and grants so that we can invest in our country’s future, and protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of our citizenry – such as those charged with offencens – with proper free legal aid from the best legal brains in the country.

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