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Should my child go to university?

University students

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Once upon a time graduating from university was seen as one of the best things a young person could do to guarantee a well-paid and secure career. These days, high fees and a lack of jobs are putting many parents and young people off. So what are the pros and cons of university education and what are the alternatives?

Living costs for students

If your family isn’t on a low income and you aren’t claiming certain benefits, then you will normally be expected to pay the full amount when it comes to university fees. These can range hugely depending on the course and where you live, not to mention accommodation, food, books and other living expenses.

Rising student debts

Students are expected to finish their degree with debts of around £60,000, according to a survey published by student guide Push in 2011, and almost three-quarters of universities in England are planning to charge the maximum £9,000 tuition fee for some or all of their courses (all universities are allowed to charge up to £6,000 a year in fees).

So with many students forced to take up part-time jobs to cover university fees and taken on large student loans, along with the temptation that students are faced with when it comes to overdrafts, store and credit cards (including the added interest on repayments), you may wonder why anyone actually goes to university at all?

University girl

Why university is the right choice for you

• The university experience… we all know that the real learning happens when you leave home – that’s not to say that students can’t live at home while studying, but for many young people it’s a time to break free from house rules and learn how to live independently.

• Degree qualification… for many careers a degree is still essential; it’s often what’s learnt at university and the contacts or work experience placements that will help graduates to get their career off the ground and make a valuable impression.

• Employment prospects… even with all the gloomy statistics about lack of jobs for graduates, it seems that employment amongst recent graduates still remains higher than among non-graduates, according to a recent Guardian survey. The survey also revealed that graduates who secured a job earned on average twice as much as those who left school at 16 or 18.

• Financial support… you don’t need to have all the money to hand immediately – once a student application has been processed, tuition fees will be paid by Student Loan Company loans. Graduates only need to start repaying loans in the April after graduation (or leaving) or once a student’s income is over £21,000 a year and each month you pay back 9% of any income over £21,000. If their income drops below this amount then the repayments stop. You can also choose to pay your loan directly. It’s worth reading the article ‘Beware of paying uni fees upfront’ at the Money Saving Expert website before deciding how to pay fees.

• Part-time study… there is also the option to carry out part-time studies, which will allow students enough time to work while studying. It can mean that an undergraduate degree can take a lot longer and there are different funding rules, yet this could be a good option for students who are looking for more flexibility (and are self disciplined).

University Students

The alternatives to university education

• Employment… with the right work experience, contacts, attitude and dedication there’s no reason why someone can’t get a job straight after leaving school. It may also mean that school leavers can earn more than a graduate at an earlier age, along with the fact they will have far less debt to pay off.

• Apprenticeships… there are plenty of apprenticeships (including ‘higher apprenticeship’ options), school-leaving programmes and paid placements available in a growing number of sectors. These can also be a good idea for anyone who may not have the grades to meet a university course requirement, yet want to achieve a degree-level qualification while earning money at the same time.

• Alternative training schemes… you don’t necessarily need to have a degree to get into the legal profession, for example. There is a training scheme run by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), which combines on-the-job training with examinations and academic study. Other careers that don’t need a degree include accountancy and retail.

• Sponsored degree programmes… there are a number of sponsored degree programmes available in the UK. This means you can work full-time for a company while studying part-time for a degree.

• Free university movement… with rising university costs, free courses are being set up and not all of them are online. For example, the Free University of Liverpool and the Really Open University, were both set up as a protest against the privatisation of higher education.




About Julia Faulks

About Julia Faulks

Julia Faulks is a content editor and journalist with 11 years' experience writing and subbing editorial for a number of publications. Now a mother herself, she has turned her hand to writing content for parents as well as young people and likes nothing more than turning long and complicated copy into something that everyone can understand.

Website: Julia Faulks

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