One month and six days. That’s how long until I finish my degree and I am done with education forever. One month and six days to sort my life out. But my biggest worry isn’t my final exams. It’s not my increasingly urgent dissertation. It’s not even what I’m going to be doing next year. It’s money. Because I can’t see for the life of me how I’m going to afford to make the transition from undergraduate student, to adult-ing full time.
There’s the option of a Masters. But with scholarships being rare and competitive that would probably mean another loan, to add to the £30,000+ of student debt that is a bachelor’s degree. Internships or professional training schemes are an option, but mean accepting little to no pay whilst still having to support yourself.
Rent alone is an incomprehensibly large expense even on a proper salary, especially if you plan on caving to the pressure and moving to London. Which most of us will have to, because that’s where all the jobs are. Graduate jobs are the majority’s option but even then you often need to pay for travel and accommodation to take interviews and assessment centres; and that’s before considering the first month’s rent, deposit, food and other living costs needed to set up somewhere new.
Come June there will be tens of thousands of graduates in exactly this position. Many of them will be forced to move back in with their parents until they can save enough to get their own place. Torture for all involved no matter how much you love your family. Plenty more young people, although not moving back home, will rely on their parents for continued financial support in order to pursue their dreams and/or soul destroying corporate career. But how long that’s sustainable for relies entirely on how willing and wealthy your parents are, so not an option for everyone.
And it’s only going to get worse. Come September the government’s legislation scrapping maintenance grants will come into effect; this move will see grants for those from lower income backgrounds replaced with loans. Leaving those who are already less wealthy with even more debt. In addition, The Sutton Trust found this week that, with new adjustments to tuition fees and maintenance loans, students at universities in England will now be paying back an average of £44,000. That’s even more than in the US. You could get one undergraduate degree in Canada and another one in Australia for a mere £35,000.
At this point trying to establish a career in Tory Britain feels a bit like being in the Hunger Games. There’s only so many resources to go round and you’d probably kill your best friend to get a paid internship. The only difference is if you do secure said internship or a good postgraduate course there is no prize, you just get more debt. Rent is soaring, post economic meltdown companies are still tight on hiring and chances are you’ll never pay off your student loans. Aside from the fact that they leave both the economy and students worse off, the horrible thing about massive tuition fees is their representation of a system which punishes the young for not contributing to society, before they’ve even had a chance to.
According to the Office for National Statistics last year unemployment in 16-24 year olds was nearly three times that of the national average, and the worst it has been since 1992. In pandering to more reliable older voters and the rich this government has left an entire generation up debt creek without a paddle. That national living wage they’re so proud of? Not available if you’re under 25 no matter how hard you work. What’s more, with cuts increasing and the potential for another financial crash looming, it’s not like those statistics are going to improve. Obviously cutting the national debt is important. Even to the economically challenged like myself that’s just common sense. But it’s also pointless if it’s not sustainable; and the difficult reality is if we don’t start investing in younger generations there won’t be a future worth saving for.
I know that to whine about the expense of my Russell Group University degree and not getting my dream job sounds entitled. But it’s not that I’m afraid of working hard. I’m afraid of having to move back in with my parents whilst working a job that both destroys my soul and doesn’t make the world a better place in any way. Someone needs to start looking at ways to support young people, preferably in ways that actually work. Because then young people in turn will be able to contribute to society. It’s a cliche that the young are the future because we are, and what does Britain want its future to look like? Because at the moment it’s going to be a vast amount of unemployed, disillusioned individuals who hate the system and will probably emigrate to find better options. Oh, and did I mention they’ll be in a metric shit tonne of debt.
Image courtesy of David Cheskin/PA