Loading...
 

Lobby sheet 2: Tuition fees

Argument: Student should also bear the costs of study, so tuition fees are necessary.

A tuition fee is defined as an economic contribution a student has to pay to a higher education institution, a country’s higher education sector or the state, before, during or after their studies, in order to register, attend or to complete higher education (also includes administrative fees such as entrance fees, registration fees, examination fees).

Arguments pro:
  • The student gains from higher education better employment outcomes and a higher salary, so it is only right that s/he should contribute to the cost. In countries where a relatively small proportion of the wider population enters higher education it is unfair to use public money taken from those who do not benefit from higher education to finance the educational elite.
  • Students do not all come from the same socio-economic background and some families can afford to contribute to the cost of higher education; those families should help to cover the costs for those who can less afford to pay.
  • If students have to pay fees higher education institutions will operate more in the student interest. This would also increase efficiency as they would be competing for students as consumers and, moreover, investors in their own human capital.
  • Greater incentives for students to study hard and graduate “on time”

Arguments con:
  • Even though students also benefit personally from higher education, in terms of career opportunities and personal development, the private benefits of graduates are hugely compensated by the graduates’ contribution to society. These benefits are then reflected on a societal level, in terms of lower unemployment rates, better health, lower crime rates, more societal involvement, higher tax returns and other trickle-down effects;
  • People may be deterred from entering higher education if they cannot afford to pay a fee;
  • Once you introduce the principle of students making a contribution institutions may take the opportunity to levy excessive or unfair charges and to raise the fee as high as possible;
  • By focusing on the private benefits of higher education you dilute recognition of the wider public good of higher education i.e. training doctors, lawyers, civil servants, extending knowledge etc.;
  • A risk of having variable fees is that students may choose courses based on cost rather than on whether it is the right course for them. A further risk is that institutions set fee levels based on the signals they want to send about how good their courses are, not on how much it actually costs to deliver.
  • Students also benefit personally from higher education, in terms of career opportunities and personal development. However these benefits are then reflected on a societal level, in terms of lower unemployment rates, better health, lower crime rates, more societal involvement, higher tax returns and other trickle-down effects. The private benefits of graduates are hugely compensated by the graduates’ contribution to society.

Risk mitigation:
  • Introducing a publicly funded student loan system available to all prospective students, for all courses, with generous repayment terms so that nobody needs to be fearful of getting into debt that they cannot pay.
  • Make fees means-tested so only those who can afford it have to pay.
  • Making it illegal for institutions to charge more than a certain fixed fee.
  • Ensure the total fee income is lower than the total public funding.
  • Scrapping the concept of a fee and levying a tax on graduates so that the public funding to institutions can be increased without overtaxing those who do not benefit from higher education.

Resources and references:
Eurostudent Intelligence briefs: The impact of fees on student budgets(external link)
Eurydice publications: National Student Fee and Support Systems 2011/12(external link)
Eurydice: Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Funding and the Social Dimension 2011(external link)
Higher Education Strategy Associates: 2011 Year in Review – Global changes in Tuition Fee Policies and Student Assistance(external link)
Knowledge economy - Investing in opportunities campaign website(external link)

Possible systems and countries to compare:
No tuition fees (for domestic students): Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Sweden, Malta (BA), Greece, Cyprus (BA)
Vey high tuition fees: UK, Iceland

For more information, check the FINST Compendium on Higher Education – Part I. Short Overview of Higher Education Funding Systems across Europe and Part 4. Future Funding Scenarios.