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Watch out! The Coalition is planning another tuition fee hike

If the present coalition is re-elected, students will pay the price.

By Chuka Umunna

Today the choice facing Britain on Thursday has become even clearer than before. Labour will cut tuition fees, the Tories and Lib Dems will increase them again.

This morning Nick Clegg repeatedly refused to rule out hiking student fees once again when pressed on the issue. William Hague even admitted that the Tories are looking at a rise in tuition fees in the next Parliament, stating: “we haven’t specified the future level of university fees.”

These words should worry students, all those aspiring to go to university, as well as parents and grandparents and everyone who wants to see the next generation do better than the last. Having trebled fees, the Tories and Lib Dems are preparing to do so again. New analysis released today shows that to maintain university funding at its current levels, the Tories’ extreme cuts would lead to fees rising to £11,500 a year. That would mean loading an extra £7,600 of debt onto the next generation of students, who would leave university with average debts of £51,600.

And taxpayers are set to be hit under the Tories’ plans too: as things stand, the Tory-Lib Dem system of high fees will add £281 billion to UK debt – costing more than the system it replaced.

In contrast, Labour’s fully-costed plan – which both the Tories and Lib Dems have opposed – will cut student fees by a third to £6,000 from next year, helping students who are already at university, and boost support for students from low-income backgrounds by increasing maintenance grants to £3,800 a year, benefitting half of all students.

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As well as saddling students with debt and putting up barriers to aspiration by trebling fees, the Tories and Lib Dems also dealt a hammer blow to trust in the political system. In the area which I’ve had the privilege of representing for the past five years, I regularly meet young people who backed the Lib Dems in 2010 in response to Nick Clegg’s fees pledge and feel bitterly disappointed and disengaged as a result.

Ed Miliband will see through the promise he has made to Britain’s students. Unlike Nick Clegg, we will keep our word, and we will deliver.

During this campaign, time and time again we’ve seen our opponents desperately plucking numbers from the air, making promises they know they can’t deliver, and bringing forward plans which unravel within hours.

Rebuilding trust in politics isn’t easy. But we can only hope to do so if we keep our promises to the British people. Next week, in Ed Miliband the British public will have the chance to vote for a Prime Minister who will do so.

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
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