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>In the UK we have a student loan system where students do not have to pay back loans unless they earn over a threshold amount, so in theory there is nothing to prevent a poor person going to university regardless of how high the fees are. //

You still need to live. The maximum loans don't appear to take in to account the cost of rent and food/transportation. When+where I went to Uni there were no fees and there was a loan system but the loan didn't cover living expenses at all, IIRC it didn't even cover my rent (which was as high at the time as London rents; London students had a higher loan rate however to accommodate the high rent). Without relatively well off parents I couldn't have attended the high-class institution that I did.

The usual answer is to have a part time job - but with lectures starting at 9am every day, finishing labs by about 6pm some days and evenings spent at the library the only time for a job was weekends, which would mean no sport and/or no social life.

Anyway, I digress, the UK model seems only really good in theory. Many, many people appear to be at "university" only to avoid work or having been convinced that they "need a Uni education to function as part of society" by political parties who seemingly only wanted to reduce the unemployment figures. Perhaps that's a little too cynical but I think there's much truth in it too.

>In this case it doesn't seem fair to tax people who are poor to pay for something that is mainly of benefit to the rich. //

Educated workers benefit society. They often pay larger tax bills but they also fill roles in fields like medicine, education, engineering, and such that serve society. We need educated people to work and bolster our economy if we want to live in the way we've become accustomed to. We don't have to pay but we'd be foolish IMO not to. Like begrudging doctors their high pay when we as a society en masse appear not to blink at paying footballers, bankers, pop-stars and such many order of magnitude more [I know the economics aren't so simple]. The UK is looking to immigration to solve the crisis of lack of skilled workers and at the same time placing financial blocks in front of those that might be able to be home-grown to fill those positions in the future. Maybe that's not a bad thing but it seems like one, not least because of the skills drain we place on other countries.

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