Free Tuition Debates Continue in Scotland
Families of American college students have bore the burden of increasing tuition fees throughout recent years and now students in England and Scotland face the same challenges. Economic circumstances have motivated the British government to re-think their previous commitment to providing higher education at no cost to students and parents. Changes in England put Scotland’s free tuition plan in the spotlight as they attempt to save their students from loans and expensive fees.
Prior to 1998, college students in Britain had the luxury of going to college for free. A parliament vote in 1998 allowed colleges to charge £1,000, with a later increase to £3,300 per year. Beginning in September 2012 colleges will have a cap of £9,000, or about $15,000, to charge students per year.
Colleges in England have announced their intent to charge the full £9,000 while Scottish schools maintain their commitment to free higher education.
The decision to refuse fees presents monetary implications for Scotland and debates between differing political groups argue whether higher education really should be free. The Scottish Conservative party is the only group suggesting a “graduation endowment”, but as a small minority in parliament their proposal is not likely to take effect. Leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, expressed his position on tuition fees by saying “The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be impressed on Scottish students, upfront or backdoor.”
Higher education funding in Scotland currently comes from tax payers and a subsidy paid to Scotland by the British government. The subsidy will likely be altered as England’s higher education budget changes with the implementation of government funded student loans. This means Scotland will receive less money and be forced to find new avenues for funding. The extra flow of money into English colleges will also increase their global standing and allow for increased spending- leaving Scotland in the dust.
Tuition decisions in England and Scotland will result in a plethora of modern implications. English students will now leave college with the burden of student loans, similar to the reality that American students face. The tuition cap growth since 1998 demonstrates that more increases should be expected. Scottish schools may stay free for now but future budget cuts may require tuition fees for survival. As a first step, charging tuition fees to non-Scottish students attending Scottish schools in under consideration.