British tuition riots emphasize what a crappy deal Americans are getting

Angry protestors outside Conservative Party headquarters in London, plus one girl who is having a great time

Yesterday, rioters in London attempted to overrun the building that houses Britain’s Conservative Party, as 52,000 demonstrators gathered near Parliament to protest a proposed increase in university tuition. In an effort to cut spending by $130 billion, the national government has proposed raising the maximum schools can charge from $9,600 to $14,400 a year.* That idea proved unpopular. As the Times puts it, “Tuition is a politically sensitive subject in Britain, where universities are heavily subsidized by the government. Until the late 1990s, when the Labour government introduced tuition, students paid nothing to attend college.” Under the new plan, students would borrow the money from the government—as they do now—and begin paying back the loans at 9% of their wages once they began making more than $38,000 a year. After 30 years, the loan would be wiped out, regardless of whether it had been paid or not. In England, this plan prompted rioting in the streets. Meanwhile, out-of-state tuition at the University of Michigan costs $20,000 a year ($35,000 for Harvard,) and students start paying back their loans immediately whether they can find a job or not. I am beginning to suspect that we’re getting a raw deal.

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