In 2012, the common student will become an endangered species. The University of the West of England (UWE) is but the latest in a line of universities which have announced they will charge the full £9,000 tuition fees bestowed upon them by the coalition government.
This won’t affect me, personally. I’m lucky enough to be taking my degree just before the increased fees. But that doesn’t mean I’m fine with it. In fact, I’m pretty far from fine with it.
I know students get some bad press. We’re all drug-taking yobs who steal and wake up every morning with a killer hangover. We stay in ‘educashun’ because, frankly, it’s better than getting a ‘real job.’ But, take it or leave it… this is not true.
We’re not all wastes of space. And we work hard. Try studying and passing life’s first great test when society, generally, doesn’t favour you. Your whole life’s ahead of you, and if that’s not pressure enough, the Conservatives have decided you have to pay massive costs for trying to educate yourself. Just because the nation’s in debt. So what’s wrong with that?!
Despite the claims of Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, who stated the need to widen university accessibility, many – including myself – fear this cap will put prospective students off higher education. “If it’s over £6,000, I’ll definitely need to think long and hard,” said prospective student, Chris Brownett. “I don’t understand why there’s such a steep increase. And where’s it all going to?”
When I first applied for university, I was shocked – and greatly annoyed – that I’d be paying £80 more than the previous year’s intake. Once more, the cost shot up between my first and second years and promises to do so again when applying for year three. I can only imagine the worry of those hoping to go after 2012.
“The original Labour promise of at least 50% of college students going to university is no longer sustainable, under this new decision,” says A-Level tutor, Barry Creswell, who also teaches functional skills, and communication and cultural studies at Weston College.
“Some of my students are applying to universities early this year, even if they don’t want to, so they dodge the increased fees. It will have a massive effect on students, giving them fewer options and forcing them to settle for the smaller institutions”
“I’d definitely consider the cheaper options,” added Chris. “I’d still get a good education, but with less debt.”
While this may not be such a bad thing – allowing smaller universities to grow and teaching standards to increase – the latest plans come after large cut-backs to education. “Universities are relying less on Government funding, and it’s affected all the teaching staff and students,” said Barry. “They’ve become quite elitist, with only those able to afford it, attending.” And why should students have to settle for the cheaper options?
Furthermore, by welcoming students into the adult world with a big ol’ tuition fee, we are also introducing them to a world of debt. A card would have been nicer.
Though universities will have the final say-so on how much they charge, any charging over £6,000 will have to ‘justify’ this with Access courses and summer classes.
This doesn’t quite add up, however. Depending on your age, access courses are free, or certainly available for less than £100. Summer classes vary too, depending on many factors, but to a much greater extent. Some are under £50, others under £2,000, but there’s doubt over whether the latter will be included in this £6,000 clause.
More and more universities have applied to charge those massive amounts. Certainly more than the government has predicted. But greed is part of human nature, especially in times of ‘financial crisis’, so why are they so surprised?
Students have recently protested against the increased cap, but this descended into violence. “Obviously, we’ve a right to protest, but that violent minority went too far,” said Chris. “It’s a shame that the violence has overshadowed the cause.”
The Con/Dem coalition has promised one ‘consolation’; loans will be repayable once the individual is earning over £21,000 a year, in contrast to the current £15,000. This doesn’t alleviate any stress, though, as the rate of interest will rise alongside the cap on fees, from the current 1.5% to 3%. Add this to the course fees and the cost of living, and students could be paying over £30,000.
After 30 years, any remaining debts will be wiped clean, but there will be fewer incentives to go to university. Is an education worth a lifetime of debt?
It’s a sad but true reflection of our times that students are forced onto shows like ‘Deal or No Deal’ just to relieve themselves of debt. Let’s say someone goes on and wins £30,000. Congratulations! What will you spend it on? Starting a family? Furthering your career? Starting up your own business? Oh. Rid yourself of student debt. Great.
Sorry, Mr. Cameron; we can’t go on like this.