December 9, 2010

Tuition Riots

I suppose in one sense, it's inspiring that people are willing to protest tuition hikes in the UK; it suggests that access to higher education is important to people. I'm not real sure what rioting around Prince Charles' car is going to do that's productive, though. It's also a bit disappointing that Winston Churchill's statue in Parliament Square was vandalized. Neither the Prince nor Sir Winston are in any way at fault for an unpopular vote by Parliament and troubled financial times do call for difficult fiscal measures. Lighting the Christmas tree in Traflagar Square on fire sounds downright dangerous.

I'd had no idea that university tuition in the UK was so low -- according to the BBC article, it's being trebled to an "upper limit of £9,000 a year." At current exchange rates, that's about $14,200 -- which isn't all that much more than public universities charge here in the U.S. Consider resident tuition at UCLA: next year, California residents will pay $12,690 in tuition, fees, and mandatory mandatory enrollment in the UC health plan. No one is rioting about paying the equivalent of just over £8,000 a year here to go to one of the nation's premier public universities.

So does this mean that the rioters are a bunch of yobs, whining about nothing and scaring the thoroughly innocent Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall and Rothesay for something beyond her control? Well, yes to the second half of that, but education is important and providing it at a reasonable cost is important. Violence doesn't seem like a good way to solve the problem, though.


kazdragon said...

When I was at University, I was in the last year whose tuition fees were paid by the local education authority from where you had come (in my case, Leicestershire). I'm very grateful for that.

I always thought that the decision not to fully subsidise higher education was a false economy: in this day and age, what you need to move an economy are smart, educated people. You get that out of university educations.

trumwill said...

I always thought that the decision not to fully subsidise higher education was a false economy:

I agree... provided that you're discriminating between those that should be at a university, those that should be at a trade school, and those for whom post-HS is a waste of everyone's time and resources.

Not sure how it is in Britain, but in the US we are really bad at making these distinctions. Entire colleges are primarily dedicated to people that probably shouldn't be in college.