By Sam Gruet & Riyah Collins
Jodie will be heading to York St John’s University in September to study Primary Education. After A-level results day last week, Jodie Powell got the grades she needed to go to university – but she was concerned about the costs. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the cost of living would stop him going to university today, but told journalists he had a plan to make fees fairer in England. Figures show the cost of items like milk, bread and cereals has increased by about 15% over the past year.
Jodie says having a job is the only reason she accepted her university offer. Students like the 18 year-old from Leeds are calling for more help now, because of worries over the tuition fee loans and the maintenance. “I was panicking that it wasn’t going to be enough to help me through university.” Sir Keir didn’t provide specific details on how his plan would work, saying it was “work in progress” which would come in if Labour Party gets elected next year. Sir Keir Starmer said the Labour Party was working on a fairer system for student loans in England. When making her decision to go to university, Jodie says she weighed up the costs and felt to achieve her dream of being a teacher, she needed to go.
She has already spoken to the flat-mates she’ll be moving in with about what they can do to help each other out. “We’ve spoken about sharing basic necessities and sharing out the weekly shops and things like that, just to make it a little bit easier on all of us,” she says.
She’s also been able to apply for grants from the university to support her while she’s studying.
Rizwan says members of his family had been to university but it hadn’t helped them get better jobs. But not everyone feels like they can justify the cost of higher education. The average cost of university including tuition and accommodation is almost £50,000 in England. “Whatever free time I’ve got, I use that to work,” said Rizwan Baig from Birmingham. The 21-year-old works two jobs and says he considered going to university like other members of his family. But when he saw them struggling to find work he decided, for him, it wasn’t worth it.
According to the Office for Students, nearly three in 10 graduates do not progress into highly-skilled jobs or further study, 15 months after finishing university. “I don’t really see the point,” Rizwan says, before going on his first shift. “These days, you can get a degree and then go for a job interview and they ask you for experience. If you just start working, you can build up your skills slowly so later you can end up in a better position.”
Taylor says there need to be urgent changes to tackle the cost of living crisis. Taylor Hackett from Coventry also decided not to go to university because of the costs. “I did consider it but then I thought, it’s also a lot of debt,” the 21-year-old says. “And there’s always the fact that you may not pass your degree and then you’ve just spent £40K and you’ve got nothing to come away from it with. Or you’ve got the degree and you still can’t get a job because you’re overqualified or you haven’t got the experience.”
Taylor receives Universal Credit payments from the government and says the cost of living crisis means he’s only eating one meal a day. “It’s getting more and more expensive every single day,” he feels. The government says there are a number of options for young people to pursue higher education, including apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships where you can earn money while you study. It adds there is also a multi-million pound hardship fund for students facing hardship which will be distributed by universities.