Debt: a barrier to education

My progression through secondary education has been marked by
three emotions: fear, relief, and disappointment. Fear – of failing
to achieve good enough grades, or get in to college or uni, or
survive either financially or mentally if I do; relief – at
passing, getting in, or surviving; and disappointment at not
achieving one of these goals. Now I’m preparing for
university the familiar feelings are back again.

There has been much debate about whether £3,000 top-up fees
will dissuade working class students from applying to university by
saddling them with huge debt.

Top-up fees can only add to current bureaucratic hurdles between
students and higher education. I found the process of completing my
long and complex loan application frightening and offputting. I was
intensely relieved when it was finished, yet also disappointed that
even this financial help could not allay the growing fear of
financial “failure” at university. I wonder how those students who
are not considered typical applicants to university – who have
taken a vocational route to higher education, or who live in low
income families – are going to be encouraged to apply by an even
more complex set of forms and criteria with even less certainty
that they will be financially supported at university.

When I think of the amount of money I will owe when I complete
my course I am uncomfortable, and I am very disappointed that our
government appears to advocate debt and borrowing at a time when
the British people owe more than ever before. I will be entitled to
full financial support next year, yet I am afraid to spend the
money I will be entitled to without being sure I can repay it when
I’ve finished my course.

Despite the argument that increased tuition fees will reduce the
immediate financial burden on students as they enter higher
education, I am not alone in worrying that it is not the direct
outlay of money which deters me, and those in a similar financial
position from applying to university, but the confusion around
applying for and managing what is a large, ongoing debt.

Students have a great deal to worry about in the current
education system, and we will always be dogged by our fear of, and
disappointment over, our own failures. But over the next few months
we all hope that our dominant emotion will be relief. We hope to be
relieved about passing our exams and getting into university. We
should not be discouraged from taking this route by the bureaucracy
of the student support system, or leave school disappointed with
the options available to us.

Kierra Box is a student.

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