On Monday, university maintenance grants were officially scrapped after the Conservative Government first announced the change last year. Getting rid of these essential, door opening grants signals to me that we are slowly reverting back to how things used to be, when University was reserved for the elite making the access harder and harder for those who struggle to pay the extortionate fees. It wasn't fair then, and it isn't fair now.
We're screwing over the next generation yet again by continuing to tell them Uni is the only way forward. We're getting them into more debt than ever before and for what? So they can continue to pay out for a loan well into their 40s? It's going to be harder than ever to pay back what you borrow and, if you are from a poorer background, you're going to be in more debt than someone whose parents can support them. Cool...
This week the Intergenerational Foundation, argued that 'politicians should stop using a "carrot of higher graduate earnings" to justify raising student fees'. Its most recent research found that unless you managed to get into Oxbridge, it's not going to make much of a difference to your wage packet. The same report concluded that students at Uni now are unlikely to pay off the any loan in 30 years. Couple that with trying to scramble onto the housing ladder and even get married, or have kids, and you've got a life long list of bills before you've even learnt to cook.
Perhaps that's a bit of a negative way to look at things because the one major difference between now and then is the Internet. There is a fingertip distance between you and who you want to and who you can be. That changes our position slightly.
In 2016 I question whether uni should be considered by the majority of us anyway. As an employer of 60 people, all under the age of 35, When I look at people's CVs I find myself bypassing whether they have a degree and looking at their experience and their dedication to what they are doing and what they want to achieve. Passion for me is the ultimate thing I look for when hiring someone to work at UNILAD. It's the first thing that comes across in a well written covering letter and CV. I want to hire people that care about what they do and for me, you either want to change the industry you're in or you don't. If you've got a first class degree but no reason for doing what you do, then it means nothing to me.
I meet and speak to a people from all walks of life each day and a lot of the people at UNILAD would still be where they are today with, or without a degree, as their talent is innate. For me, I like to see someone who has tried their hand at different jobs, even in different industries, as it means they know what they want. From the outside looking in, Uni can sometimes provide you with a bubble protecting you from the real world. Trust me, it isn't that scary.
I'm only 24 so I'm enormously proud of where I've come along with my UNILAD team. I didn't go to uni but Sam Bentley, who co-founded UNILAD with me, did. We're both in this together so I'm not saying one route is better than the other, but you can get to where you want to be using different routes, so explore them.
If you decide uni is the way for you then my advice is do a vocational course where you can practice what you preach. A course that has a sandwich year or provides practical learning element is invaluable to ensuring you are employable once you leave. If your course doesn't offer this, then make sure you go out and use your free time to get the experience you need. Coming out of Uni with general skills is great, but coming out with industry valuable skills is the key to making your money go further.
Cutting the maintenance grant limits us financially, but it won't stop you doing what you want. Evaluate what you really want, and think about the different ways you can achieve it. There's probably a multitude of different ways that could work for you, just think carefully and pick the best one.