How the cuts are biting students
A group of students from Birmingham admit that government cutbacks are having a huge impact on their lives and feel they are becoming the ‘lost generation’ in society. This week I spoke with three final-year college students with very different agendas for their future.
Becky Smith was the first to speak up about the decision to scrap EMA from next year:
Well I’ve applied to university and got a place at Wolverhampton studying Education. So this won’t really affect me. I used EMA to buy books, stationery and for travel, so I think it will be difficult for those from low income families to survive. It’s essential that young people are encouraged to study and get a decent job for their future, as times will only get harder. I think they should still give people some sort of assistance.
But Kristy Price believes not receiving EMA did not affect her, and should not be the deciding factor in applying to further education and sixth form courses:
I never received EMA because my parents earn too much, which I think is unfair as they don’t give me money and their income goes on paying the mortgage So, really, I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for poorer families. In a way, I think scrapping the EMA will encourage more people to get a job or apprenticeship.
Finding out that James Gordon is also going to university, I decided to ask what he and Becky thought of cuts to education and rising tuition fees. James said:
Well, as I’m going this year the £9,000 cap won’t affect me. I think it will discourage people from considering university, but you don’t have to repay it until you’re earning £21,000. I think education is important and you shouldn’t be put off by the price of the fees from next year. Let’s hope the good universities charge more out of fairness.
Becky continued that cuts to education are a dangerous move for the coalition:
If we are cutting the number of lecturers and resources, can they really justify charging £9,000 per year? Oxford can back this up by their reputation but can a local university do the same? I think the cuts to education are really bad but I’m just as worried about the funding that will be available when I do my PGCE in three years.
Becky told me that she hopes to train as a teacher following her degree, but is anxious about the future of teaching:
I read in the paper about cutting numbers in certain subjects to allocate to others, and since I want to become a primary school teacher I’m apprehensive about whether there will be enough places and trainees will receive enough financial help… where will the axe fall, and will I need to get an even better degree than others? I realise teaching isn’t immune from cuts, and I should focus on my degree instead…
Kristy is hoping to set up her own business and has decided against higher education. However, all three students believe that higher tuition fees may discourage students from applying to university. James and Becky said they will be more cautious than ever with their student loans, and the three students each agreed that their confidence in consumer spending had decreased. They told me that there was more pressure to remain financially stable in an uncertain economic climate, and concluded with an invaluable piece of advice:
Open a savings account, set out a budget, keep looking for work, and don’t give up the opportunity to study at university if you have the chance [James and Becky]. Or, set up a business and come up with the next big idea! [Kristy].