Fees discourage state pupils from applying to university

I had to no idea my post about student debt would prove to be so topical. According to a survey by the group Pure Potential (about whom more momentarily),

…75% of bright Year 12 state school students feel they do not understand university tuition fees. This is 12% more than last year.

The survey shows that this year’s school leavers are just as anxious and uninformed about the higher education choices available to them as pupils were 12 months ago.

Most know little or nothing at all about the financial support available to them at university (93% compared with 95% in 2006) and 29% are less likely to go to university because of tuition fees – a 2% increase on last year’s figures.

Some 30% do not feel at all confident about the university process, up slightly from 28% last year.

God! What dribbly statistics. ‘Bright’ Year 12 students? Did they actually measure that in their survey? Actually they did, but I’m still not impressed. I expect so much better of an institution like the Guardian. So 30% do not feel confident about the University process – a 2% increase? Is there a benchmark? Do we worry when that is 35%? Should we have begun worrying when it was 20%? Personally I’d like to know where the other 70% come off being so bloody cocky. I was terrified about the University process – I barely knew which train station to get off from for my campus.

Pure Potential’s bag is access to higher education – meaning that, yes, they have something to sell. Still with the Guardian,

Marc Zao-Sanders, the co-founder of Pure Potential, which was previously called Target 10,000, said: “The figures speak for themselves. Students from the state sector – especially those with no history of higher education in their families – are now even less informed about key aspects of HE.”

“We are able to help 10,000 bright students a year but no bright students should be put off going to university in today’s society. Existing schemes and initiatives are clearly not working,” Mr Zao-Sanders said.

I support whole-heartedly the idea that background should not impede willingness to attend higher education – or success in doing so. I’m the first in my family to attain a bachelor’s degree, let alone my PhD. But I do disagree, a little, with the contention that every bright person must attend university. There isn’t enough University for every bright person, particularly in an age of grade-inflation in A-levels. Pushing it, as the Blair government has done, is what has led to exactly the cost-increases that Pure Potential is targeting with this survey.

Are costs uncertain? Yes – fees can go up (as they did while I was a student, and these were non-course fees), costs of living, as well as circumstances, are variable. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. I will sound heartless, but there is something wrong with your information, in the UK, if you worry that University is something for wealthy people. It isn’t the United States. There are a bundle of very good institutions all over the country, and despite its cock-ups the government is near enough to the Australian, Dutch, et al model for loan-and-tax processes that paying your fees should be sorted.

Stay away from overdrafts and student Barclaycards and there’s little reason to worry. You will probably live in near penury and on terrible food for a few years, graduate, and earn more during your lifetime than you would have without that degree, and far more than the degree cost.

Finally, I found this section of the article very telling.

According to the survey findings, siblings (33%) and newspapers (22%) are the main sources of information about university, with school career services (12%) and other initiatives (7%) having less influence.

The study also shows how student life is changing following the introduction of tuition fees and rising student debt levels.

Long gone are the days of students spending hours in bed or the student union. Almost two-thirds (64%) say they will get a part-time job while at university and 26% say they will live with their parents or guardians while studying.

Siblings and newspapers definitely should not be your main source of information. My school counsellor was bloody awful, so I can’t comment there. The introduction of tuition fees, student debt, etc. I’ve covered in the other post – I will point out that other countries have all been through this, and we still have universities. But “Long gone are the days of students spending hours in bed or the student union.”? If Pure Potential thinks it has a constituency that still thinks of the old days of grants, the best advice it can give them is to stop watching the Goodies and the Young Ones.

If you’re going to attend University, you’re going to pay and you’re going to have to work. It’s not high school plus, it’s an investment in human capital. I doubt this is particularly merited – I’m more sure than not that this article is just free advertising for the company.

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