This country, in case anyone hadn’t noticed, is in crisis. The nation is in huge debt and the current coalition government are doing all they can to reduce this. Granted I think they are going totally the wrong way about it in most of the things they are doing, but that’s for another discussion. Basically what I mean is that we are all having to suffer in a variety of ways.
One thing that’s kicked up a storm over the past few months is the row over an increase to tuition fees, with students protesting all over the UK. I wrote this post on the 15th October and it’s just as relevant today, when the vote was taken in the House of Commons. They decided (by a small majority) that the fees in England should be increased.
As a 17 year old I made the choice that I wanted to go to university (well I’d made that decision about 10 years before that but without considering it properly) as I wanted a career in engineering and the only way to make that happen was to get a degree. Of course there are apprenticeships but I’m not great with my hands so the academic route was the best option for me.
Now why should every Tom, Dick and Harry who work hard and pay their taxes have to pay for me to do that? Nobody thinks they should pay for the lazy benefit scroungers, only the people in true need as they are unable to work or whatever their particular circumstance is. So why should every kid who comes out of college wanting to put off the real world for another 3 years, get their university life paid for?
I don’t think anyone should have to pay for other people’s further education, we should all take responsibility for our lives and pay our own way.
I think loans should be made available from a central loan company (like the Student Loans Company only actually capable of loaning students money) for every student regardless of their background or parents wealth. It should not be down to the parents to have to fork out even more money for their children, they’ve spent enough on getting them to 18!
There should be loans to cover the tuition fees & living costs that are only repaid once the students leaves education (either with a degree or not) and is earning above a certain limit AFTER tax (I’d set it at about £20k a year). If a student decides to leave early they are still liable to pay back the money that was borrowed and if a student graduates and lands a job earning £100k a year they still pay back what they borrowed. The loans should be interest free and should be collected as they are currently, straight from your salary so you barely notice its going out, except the money should go straight to pay off your loan not the annual payment that is currently made.
I think the media play a massive role here. They should be showing parents, children, teenagers, mature students – everyone basically – that if they want to further their chosen career it can be done and will cost X amount but it will be worth it! Investing in your future by taking out a student loan shouldn’t be cast along with other debt as it currently is, it should be shown what it is in financial circumstances – a ‘good debt’. Your student loan does not affect your credit rating or likelihood of getting a mortgage. The repayments are low enough that they shouldn’t affect your ability to pay the bills. At the end of the day, if you are doing a decent degree, with a goal in mind so you work hard and graduate with something that’s actually useful (no David Beckham degrees aren’t useful ;)) you will earn enough to make it worthwhile.
For example my background: I went to uni at Oxford Brookes when we paid just over £1k a year in tuition fees with a £4k loan. My family had a low income so I got a grant for the fees. I worked part time throughout my degree as the loan doesn’t cover rent in Oxford as well as your food bills and had to take out credit cards and overdrafts. I graduated after 5 years (I did a sandwich MEng degree which involves 4 years of teaching and 1 year working in industry) with about £20k of student loan debt and almost £10k of other debts. Now this is a bit extreme as I wasn’t good enough with looking after money whilst at uni but I guess the magnitude of debt is roughly what current students will be graduating with. Now £30k is a lot of money but as a graduate engineer I should be earning between £22 – £26k a year. And that’s the starting wage – it varies greatly company to company but suffice to say after a 40 year career that £30k will be money well spent.
Equally people I lived with in my first year did 6 hours a week of studying and the rest of the time partying. Taxpayers definitely shouldn’t be paying for that!