To uni or not to uni
that is the question that my youngest is now asking herself. This is not a new question in our house though, my eldest two asked themselves the same question when they were deep into their A levels. Caity wanted to be a paramedic and Jonnie an accountant, both of which need degrees to enter the profession. The more they looked into it though, the more figures just didn’t add up.
And funnily enough it was a similar question back when I was about to leave school. I didn’t really need a university degree, I wanted to be a nanny. Everybody though was going to uni and to not go seemed like an admission of failure, even at 18. I really fancied doing a law degree though I never wanted to be a lawyer, I just fancied “knowing the law”. My parents suggested I sit down and work out not just what it would cost to be away at uni (and bear in mind this was long before £9000 a year tuition fees) but more importantly, the loss of earning potential during those three years.
Something that then didn’t stack up when my eldest two did the maths. When they factored in the £30,000 tuition fee debt, the loan for living expenses and the loss of three years worth of salary, it just didn’t add up and they decided to put their uni plans on hold and walk straight into alternative careers.
Ellie wants to be a physiotherapist, again a profession that requires a degree and uni places are fiercely fought over. So much so that we have been told that the personal statement really needs to be the best it can possibly be because that is what gets you in the university door. You can miss the grade boundaries apparently if your have a killer personal statement and the uni think you have something to offer.
So when Ellie eventually graduates, be that in four years or even five or six she needs to get her head down and gain experience. That means that any plans to travel and see the world are firmly put on hold. Once she leaves uni with all that debt it could be a dream that never materialises.
The thought now is to maybe have a gap year, volunteer and build up a CV, and her bank balance and get her 2017 place deferred until 2018 when she can at least start with savings.
Personally this also gets my vote if I am honest. I don’t know how families afford for their children to be at uni. I have been with Ellie to a couple and the accommodation bill alone is £1000 a month. One course is placement based so whilst paying for accommodation at her chosen uni we would also need to pay for further accommodation close to the placement. Or have her live at home for it and pay the travel costs. Other courses do the placement and practical alongside the academic stuff so it equals forty hours a week, with no time then for a part time job to fund living expenses.
I desperately want her to go to uni, I think it is a great life experience but at the same time the decision has to be hers (as were the decisions the older two took). The debt at the end of it is in their name.
So how do families afford it? I am already making small changes to the way we live and shop so I can start saving a bit each month. Notching the thermostat down when the heating comes on next month. Not using the tumble drier as much but putting stuff on the clothes airer. Using sites like My Voucher Codes to get cashback on all our shopping. It all adds up. Though not to £1000 a month but it might at least cover the food bill on top.
This recent post on the socialaction site about people heading to uni mentions how this system is rapidly turning into one where only the wealthy can afford to go to uni. I couldn’t agree more. Architects, vets and doctors all on longer degree courses can only come from wealthy backgrounds now, surely? Which means all these amazing would be paradmedics, nurses, doctors, will be excluded from going to uni unless their families can afford it.
Which is, I think, a great shame.
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