Who Is Responsible For The Cost of Higher Education?
My husband and I put a bit of money into a college fund every month, sometimes with gritted teeth and an eye twitch, but nonetheless contribute we continue to do. When I mentioned this to a few of my friends they looked at me bewildered and asked ‘why?’ we’ve asked around if others are saving for University, and some are, it’s just not specifically labelled up as ‘Uni Fund’ i.e. it could also be used for traveling or getting on to that all important property ladder. However I’m finding it surprising that this isn’t more of a concern for parents. University isn’t ‘free’ anymore, it’s very expensive to go into higher education now, and student loans are shrinking. There seems to be an obliviousness to the dramatic change in the cost of University in the UK. Is it because it used to be free and people are in the denial phase? I mean by now we’re all aware that student loans are essentially a graduate tax masquerading as a loan.
The last generation to have their college education funded could now have teenage children of their own. It’s only in the last few years that this has even become a talking point. In another generation or so I think it will become a lot more commonplace to start saving for your children’s education. Its like there needs to be a cultural change in parental thinking, fees are relatively new, in the timescale of cultures. Many people who are parents now weren’t funded by their own parents and ‘culture’ of course, takes time. I think culturally people are seen to be adults much younger in the UK, hence it’s seen as normal to leave school and work at 16. You see, I think it would be quite unusual to have an Asian or American parent say ‘off to University you go, you sort out everything yourself.’ It seems to be the culture here that as soon as you’re 18, you’re responsible for yourselves and you even pay rent to your parents the second you have anything to take. And of course our economy has not made matters easy for parents wanting to provide the best for their children. When you’re struggling to pay for today you don’t worry about tomorrow.
You see, I don’t think in 15 years time the structure of the Student Loans Company is going to exist in the way that it does. Currently their interest rate is too low and unaffordable, plus many people default so there are huge losses. I can’t see how they will keep it going and how the government will continue to provide a service allowing people to pay tuition ‘whenever’ in the future. I think they’ll expect our children to pay for it up front. The UK is way behind in scholarship programmes too. These are very advanced in other countries and something many children strive for. Here if you’re academically gifted you hope you can get into a top ten university but beyond that there is no reward or incentive.
Tuition fees at Oxford are currently £9000 per year and the top Universities are campaigning to have the cap on tuition fees lifted so they can charge even more than that, if this happens others will follow. I’m not sure in whose universe you can cover that amount and living expenses with a student loan and part time job, which are in short enough supply as it is. The earning potential of your child is so minimal at that age and you’re suddenly expecting THEM to find £20,000 per year. Such a different perspective than Asia and the US where parents very much see it as the last big thing they’ll do to ensure their children get on in the world. For my Asian friends it’s perfectly normal to save for your child’s education. I have single childless Asian female friends who are already saving for their children’s university education!
So, do you think it is time for a cultural shift in what is expected of us as parents when it comes to providing for our children’s education? Or do you think that when your child reaches 18, they are no longer your financial responsibility?