High university fees, an inadequate loans system and the rising costs of living have meant that getting a degree is now a social sport — and only the fittest succeed

 

It’s that time of year again where thousands of 17 and 18 year-olds have received offers (or rejections) from universities. But with the expensive price tag that comes with getting a degree, many teenagers have been left wondering: just how am I going to afford this? And I’m not talking about the extortionate £9,000 per year for tuition fees where most students will get the tuition loan; I’m talking about living costs.

The government offers questionable maintenance loans in which the amount a young adult is entitled to borrow is based on how much their parents earn. This seems ridiculous giving the fact that the student is an adult themselves, so what on earth do their parents’ earnings have to do with anything? If your joint household income is above £62,180 you are entitled to the minimum loan of £3,821 per year. For example, if you live in London, like myself, the average income is £48,023 according to the annual survey of hours and earnings, which is a lot higher than the rest of the UK as it reflects the high living costs within the capital. Therefore if you live in London and both your parents earn the average you’re only allowed the lowest loan available — something that is extremely unfair.

For most universities the rent for a room is usually around £5,000 per year. So if you are renting a room for this price and rely on the maintenance loan, you’ve got to magically find another £1,179 from somewhere just for rent. Now add in costs such as food, washing and toiletries and you are looking at around £4,859 that you need to find out of thin air.

What this means is that many parents are having to fork out a lot of money towards their grown children, just so they can have a good education and get a degree, creating a dependency culture on parents. If your parents are unwilling to help you financially then there is little hope of you managing to actually get to university. There is always the option of a job but between university and part-time employment, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to make £4,859 a year and there is no guarantee that you will find a job at university. Furthermore, if you are hoping to attend Oxford or Cambridge you simply wouldn’t be able to work anyway because these universities do not allow their students to take on part-time work. So quite simply, some people are being denied an education because of the living costs.

Another worrying aspect is people being denied the tuition loan. Some young people who have moved to England from abroad as very young children and who have attended schools here, are being denied a tuition loan. Worse still, many are being charged international fees as much as £26,000 a year and are only made aware of this once they start applying to university! This is believed to affect between 500 and 2,400 pupils, many of whom have spent half their lives here.

Firstly, I find this to be a horrible practise that isolates certain members of our society and leaves them feeling as if their contribution is insignificant. Secondly, it is a woeful waste of talent and skills that could be used to benefit our society.

Instead of leaving clever and bright people disheartened and with limited prospects for the future, higher education should be an opportunity for every member of society to expand their knowledge in their chosen field and then give back into our society by working in their chosen profession.

The idea that some people are being denied this vital education is a bad reflection on our country and current government.