Penny For Your Thoughts: How students from low income families struggle financially at university

After the government have announced plans to raise tuition fees, UNIfied’s Anna Woodfield explores financial difficulties that students face at university.

Earlier this year, the government announced plans to raise university tuition fees above the allotted £9,000 per student per year.

The new plans introduced by universities minister Jo Johnson say that tuition fees will increase to £9,250 for all current students.  This is a detrimental blow to all students but mainly to those from low income backgrounds.

Many students from low income backgrounds feel like they cannot afford university, and while we pretend that “they have as much chance as anyone else” the reality is, they don’t. Although they may have done well in their exams, they are worried about their financial situation when they arrive.

As a student, the thought of having a debt doesn’t make you feel good. No matter how much Student Finance stress that “you only have to pay it off if you earn £21,000 or more a year” or “after 30 years, if you haven’t paid the debt it is wiped off”, students are still left with the feeling of weight on their shoulders.

I’m not saying that students from middle class and wealthy backgrounds don’t have to worry because we all do, however, they are more likely to get financial assistance from their parents as opposed to a student from a low income family who might not be able to access that support making university life more difficult.

Students from low income families may be put off from applying to university altogether if they don’t think they can afford it. The maintenance loan barely covers accommodation so unless they are able to get a job, they might struggle considerably with the additional costs of university (such as course books and materials which you are required to purchase).

This shouldn’t be the case. Why should students have to struggle to gain something so valuable yet basic as an education? These students, in most cases, have chosen to go to university so they shouldn’t have to do this worrying about whether they can afford basic necessities.

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Students feel like they are missing out on university if they can’t afford to socialize

Students from low income families could also feel embarrassed that they may not be able to socialise as much because they need to save their money for food. Students, regardless of their background, should feel supported and included at university; by their lecturers, general university staff but most importantly, their friends.

I believe student finance shouldn’t be based on the income of your parents/carers – it should be based on the amount you need to live comfortably. This is a fundamental problem within our society and it needs to change.

Tuition fees are pricing the poorest students out of an education and this needs to stop. Education should be something that is inclusive to all – you shouldn’t be charged for wanting to broaden your horizons and better your chances at getting a highly paid job. An education is one of the most important things you can posses. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be tuition fees at all and they certainly shouldn’t be rising.

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