We’ve spread our wings and flown the nest, ready to start life as independent women…and men in the big bad world. Except for the genius anomaly amongst us, we are now all legally recognised adults; entitled to vote, own a credit card (God forbid!), and buy a glass of white wine without investing in a push up bra first. Gap year or no gap year, this year is the second year every new student is obligated to pay top-up fees and the ongoing grumble about the absurdity of this country’s self-inflicted debt-riddled young society has well and truly transferred itself from the long forgotten ‘Ark’ to the sofas of ‘Mooch’. As if the pressure of leaving our green, homely campus with an averaged £15,000 debt wasn’t enough, the majority of us students feel the necessity to add an 18 hour shift to our week in order to keep us afloat: which is proven to lower our chances (if their ever was one in the first place) of obtaining a first or a 2:1 by 62%.
Willing or not to self finance our gateway into the future, fresh out of the playground we have no established funds of our own and whether the government loans or grants us our funds, our total support simply isn’t sufficient by itself. Unfair as it may seem to enter education’s afterlife with the shadow of an ever looming debt, perhaps it should be recognised that the government doesn’t have a bottomless pit of gold and would be unable to finance every student who embraces university as an opportunity to pursue a career in butterfly-collecting, whilst developing their skills at ‘ring of fire’. But then again, our governmental support isn’t assessed by our own future ability to repay it but instead is based on our parents’ financial income. A student with a household income of £17, 910 should expect to receive a total of £6,045 towards maintenance a year, where as £38, 000 or more will acquire only £4, 385: a figure which leaves a self-catered fresher with a maximum of £23 to supply their weekly vitamin intake and ‘get involved’. (Perhaps the small print of our loan should read: p.s. we assume all parents earning £40 000 a year will substitute the additional £1600 regardless of your other kids interests and the fact that you’re legally not obligated to, as your child is no longer a child.)
As there are those whose parents have the means and the generosity to support their ‘children’ throughout these years of self development and enrichment of the mind, it is undisputable that those students without this support system should be subsidised to create equality in opportunity. But why as ‘legally recognised adults’ are we still assessed in the governments eyes as children: a financial burden to our parents, encouraged to leech off them indefinitely.
The alternate to further and higher education could have been to leave school at 16 (a choice that wont be available in 2015) when we were old enough; to pay taxes but not vote on their expenditure; parent a child but not marry without your own parental consent; and engage in sexual intercourse but not watch it in a film. Clearly the reality of adulthood at 16 was premature for us all. As the government pledges to provide 90, 000 apprentice schemes for 16-18 year olds by 2013, what is it doing for those 18 and above who face the option of either a debt induced education or a skill less career? The youth of today need to be viewed less as statistics and more as individuals who need options and support. Racking up debt unnecessarily should not be encouraged and 18 year olds need more opportunities to enter the work place with programs that enable them to gain experience and skills which consequently provides more available funds for those whose goals are academically driven and need a higher financial allowance (regardless of parental status) and better graduate support to allow us to move boldly into the world without holding our mother’s hand. Couldn’t the government also drive an initiative that encourages more companies to provide paid part time under-grad positions that allow students to earn whilst gaining experience instead of draining their energy practicing the art of pouring a pint whilst calculating the hours they have left to finish the assignment they have due that morning?
We are old enough and wise enough to make our own decisions about whether the cost of further education is outweighed by the gains. Even for those of us who are prepared to accept the price of knowledge we are yet to see an adequate governmental support system, repayable upon reaping the benefits of an extended education, that doesn’t demand either a damaging part time job or the occasional phone call to mummy and daddy. Having reached the threshold of adulthood it appears the luxury of education has stopped being a right and become a choice: a choice that’s geared by financial gain and limited by financial burden.