17 March 2011

BBC discover well off graduates pay more shock

The BBC has been desperately plugging today - from Breakfast forwards - a story that tries to imply that future graduates will pay back huge amounts due to the coalition government's new tuition fees and student support policy.

To quote their online article:

'The calculations assumed all the students borrowed a total of £39,000 - £9,000 in fees and £4,000 for maintenance over a three-year course - and go on to earn above the national average'

So they borrow the maximum, aren't eligible for any bursary or grants due to low incomes and go on to earn above average graduate earnings. And shock horror they could pay back double what they borrowed over a 30 year period!

What about the other side of the coin - those graduates who don't borrow the maximum, have a bursary and go on to earn less than the average? What are their lifetime payments? Does the BBC researcher understand the definition of 'average'? Because if they did they would understand it is entirely misleading to use such a partial illustration.

And given they based the entire story on just three examples it rather reminds me of one of those adverts by some pharmaceutical company that punts lavishly packaged whale gonads as a miracle anti ageing cure by saying that huge proportions of women use nothing else. And then the small print says 'survey based on 13 interviews' or similar.

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