Tuesday 23 November 2010

Letter No 2: Tuition Fees

This second letter came about because my daughter began talking about how concerned and angry she felt about the increase in tuition fees.  My heart sank; my working class parents had spent all my childhood instilling in me and my three siblings the importance of gaining a good education (including college or university) and now their middle class granddaughter felt it might be beyond her reach, because she couldn't afford it.  If she's feeling so anxious, what must the poorest 25% of students be feeling?
   Thirty years ago I was an ordinary kid living on a council estate who got to go to art college and it changed my life in so many valuable ways.  Like many of the poorer students today I was worried about incurring debt and I know that if I hadn't had financial support, I wouldn't have considered pursuing the career I now have, because "people like me don't become artists".  Without that grant I could never have gained my degree, nor would I have spent a large part of my working life passing on what I've learnt.  I know from personal experience that worry of such debt will now discourage many poorer able kids from even thinking about university (let's talk about EMA another time).  The hike in fees feels regressive.  A great deal of the work I do involves encouraging young people to think beyond the definitions imposed by (lack of) income, opportunity or self-belief.  Society is richer for their potential being fulfilled.  Poorer students are as clever and able as rich ones; it seems immoral to me that the opportunity to invest in their skills and ambitions might now be wasted simply because the Coalition knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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