Stop the presses! Sun rises, sets

New research from the Institute of Stating the Bloody Obvious has found that teenagers from poorer families aren’t going to university as much, what with tuition and top-up fees. Apparently they’re worried about being saddled with debt so they’re not going at all, or going to local universities and colleges so they can live at home.

"Its findings set the government’s fee-charging regime at odds with ministers’ ambitions to "unlock the potential" of children in the poorest areas of the country and boost the number of them attending top universities, student leaders claim."

Well, stone me. You mean to say charging people an extra three grand per year to go to university puts off people who might not have that kind of cash? Why did nobody say this when the fees were introduced? Oh, wait, they did… (and now it’s on the cards for the OU as well).

Higher education minister Bill Rammell says: "We want to ensure that money is not a barrier to higher education… Nobody should be put off considering higher education for financial reasons." Um – has anyone ever explained to Mr. Rammell how ‘words’ can appear piss-poor when juxtaposed with ‘actions’?

If I were going to university now I’d go to Leeds and live at home, no questions asked. Never mind that it would take over an hour to get to the campus, that the course wasn’t ideal, that my social life would be severely hampered by the buses that stop running at 11pm, or that their student radio station isn’t a patch on Nottingham’s (it seemed to be mainly staffed by media students, who are all well and good for a marketing campaign but what do you do when the desk falls apart live on air, eh?).

I grew up with a horror of debt inherited from my parents who, as children growing up on the Leeds council estates, were experts at "shintin" – that moment when the rent man calls and the parents hide behind the sofa, sending the kids to answer the door. The rent man asks "can I talk to your mum?" and the child replies "she i’nt in". Nothing unusual in that for their background. And when you grow up watching people struggling with money you don’t want to voluntarily do that to yourself at 18 years old… you haven’t had the experience of seeing people earning a decent wage and living free of money worries. If you’re a child coming from money, money isn’t an issue – you grow up assuming it’s there, you’ve seen people aquiring it, you know how it’s done. No wonder the middle and upper classes self-perpetuate.

Apparently this is a concept too far for our politicians. I wouldn’t mind if they just said "look, sorry, but we can’t be bothered to fund the universities properly any more. We’re much more interested in maintaining the Saudi slush fund. Some of you are going to get screwed" instead of desperately trying to sustain the lie of 50% in higher education and access for all.

[By the way – anyone paying back their student loans through their wages? Check your SLC statements if you think you’re due to pay it off. The money doesn’t go direct to the SLC, it goes to HMRC – and they’re not very good at talking to each other to work out when you should stop paying.]

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6 responses to “Stop the presses! Sun rises, sets

  1. Nick February 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

    It really is a tragedy, and one that was so utterly inevitable. Quite a few people at my college got fantastic grades but then didn’t go to uni because of money worries.
    Whatever the fact and figures there is quite simply, as you say, a perception difference between middle and working class people when it comes to money.
    I am currently doing some work through uni as a Student Ambassador trying to promote HE to local kids (http://www.aspire-aimhigher.ac.uk/). Two of the biggest issues we face are 1) Dealing with the disenfranchisement towards education that they feel after years in the school system 2) Money.
    In pretty much every way possible the government is failing children and young people. And the saddest thing is that the vast majority of people in this country don’t give a shit.

  2. Will February 15, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I think that sentence should read – And the saddest thing is that the vast majority of people in this country who have the power to do anything about this don’t give a shit.
    I don’t think the issue was ever that the public supported tuition fees, completely the opposite in fact, and across the spectrum of class. It’s fucking politicians again.

  3. Nick February 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    True there wasn’t much public support for tuition fees, but on the wider issue of child welfare society doesn’t give a shit.
    We are a very ‘anti-youth’ country. The amount of venom and aggression towards young people is pretty disturbing. They are seen as a violent menace, large swathes of them written off as the dregs of society with no chance of redemption. I am not saying I think children can do no wrong but we really do fail when it comes to treating and helping the ones most in need of help. And we reap what we sow. Children all to often fall through the net and we are left with thousands of young people leaving school each year with no qualifications.
    And when they are down there is very little to try and bring them back up again.
    To put simply: There is a widespread systematic failure of young people, especially those that are vulnerable, by society and the various institutions they encounter.

  4. Will February 15, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Agreed. I wouldn’t say it’s just the young though – the poor, elderly, mentally ill – they all get a raw deal. As I’ve said before, this country doesn’t put enough emphasis on social welfare.

  5. Nick February 15, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Very, very true.
    It is no surprise that where you have just been to is apperently the happiest place in the world. The Scandinavian welfare model is incredible.

  6. Will February 15, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Doesn’t stop the Danes being grumpy though…

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