How Much does a Degree Actually Mean?

When you hit 6th form, you’re suddenly faced with the dilemma – whether you should go to university or not. It’s a question that has been asked more and more frequently over the years, until now it is more unusual to opt out of going to university than it is to apply for one. All too often, individuals choose to go to university yet don’t necessarily study their chosen subject, or one that appeals to them; they follow the crowd, getting more excited about the social aspect and of escaping whatever town or city they have grown up in.

The average student leaves university with a whopping £20,000 after three years at university, according to the Complete University Guide. This lump sum of money is enough for a good deposit on a house; lowering the chances of young people managing to clamber onto the property ladder (as discussed in my earlier article) when they leave, as they have to repay this debt once their earnings reach the milestone.

Has the pressure been placed too predominately on the younger generation – once upon a time a degree was a sign of extreme intelligence, with a few grands worth of debt for a five year course and now it is noticeable if you lack a degree. Do we really need a degree in order to succeed and gain a well-paid job?

Personally, I feel the answer is yes, for whilst I chose not to go to university because of the debt (and because I believe that if you can write, you can write – A’s at GCSE and A Level seem to support this for me), I was constantly turned down for jobs that involved writing and even have an email for the local newspaper I used to write for telling me to go to university to get the journalism qualification of NCTJ. Now that I support myself and have a household of my own to run, it would not be a viable option. This means at the moment that I seem to have, effectively, been locked out of journalism for the time being.

So although a degree is a worthwhile choice to an extent, for it means there are a lot more doors open for those with a degree if they are looking for a career in a chosen field, for those who are floating and may settle back into those industry’s whereby school-leavers are able to go straight to, it can’t help but seem a waste. With debt so high, it almost means some people have not only gained debt, but have lost out on the potential earnings they could have had had they started in their chosen sector straight from college.

According to the Financial Times, two thirds of students will never pay off of their debt. That’s an extremely high statistic, especially when you consider that the average student debt is twenty grand. About 70% of uni students who finished in 2016 are expected to never pay off their student loan and instead will make repayments for 30 years before having the rest written off, due to the stipulations surrounding this. This also raises other questions – is this creating huge damage to our economy, as the tax payers are footing the bill? What exactly does this mean, for there is no such thing as ‘free money’, even if it is being treated as such.

Yet, for some university is the best decision they’ve ever made and there’s no reason why students can’t decide to go back to university once they have chosen a path. I think the question we have to ask ourselves is are we pushing people into university when they aren’t ready? I envy the people who have their life mapped out and have a clear-cut idea of what they meant to be, but I know it’s just not that easy for the vast majority of people. We are pushing debt on teenagers who are still growing as people and still are unsure of the path they want to take.

Now, at least, there are other options – such as doing nights, or studying on their own time at home for the Open University, or even doing part-time university and balancing work-life. It can be viable and is even better for those who are mature students, as it means that they have had the inclination to study whole-heartedly for this subject. I believe that the stipulations for degrees can be degrading and insulting, for it is almost as if we are cited as unintelligent just because we chose not to go to university. (Not including doctors, teachers, vets etc who need a degree – hey, you signed up for that).

It’s all minefields, but we do have to ask ourselves – how much does a degree mean?

Words by Hayley Freeston

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