Higher education or hierarchy education?

by Caitlin Stimpson

“So basically, you’re on a full-time course with no money to live somewhere or eat or anything.” Abigail Russell

Abigail Russell sourced by herself via her facebook
Abigail Russell sourced by herself via her facebook

More and more in this day and age, we see so many individuals in the UK and all around the world being encouraged to go to University, only to realise that their Bachelor’s degrees are of no real difference to a modern-day GCSE qualification without the extracurricular experience. The same applies to those looking for courses wanting big money straight up, with no option to spread out payments to a reasonable degree whilst they gain their qualifications.

So then come the costs. The gap between the rich and poor is ever increasing as we know and having limited access to higher educational programs – encouraging working-class people to get better-paying jobs is just one of many reasons why, no matter their talent, it all comes down to if they’ve got the money to pay out for community college courses.

Even if working class people could have easier access to courses to help their careers, there’s still some government work to be done. A Gov.uk study from 2017  conducted by the Social Mobility Commission found even when working class people have the same educational attainment, role and experience as their more privileged counterparts, “the report finds that those from poorer backgrounds are still paid an average of £2,242 (7%) less.

Statistics such as these can allow us to ask some important yet seemingly obvious questions. Are the crazy prices for college-based courses and other training methods into employment just yet again another way to keep widening the gap between the rich and poor?

Even when people from low-income backgrounds are able to make ends meet – gaining these expensive qualifications, they’re often frozen out of further employment due to the pyramid-scheme-like nature of the employment hierarchy. As well as the higher impact of debt, those on a low-income are forced into by doing these courses, they’re often not able to further a career.

Speaking with a recent Law graduate, Abigail Russell, she explains why she believes the working class are being ‘frozen out’ from opportunities for gaining the experience we all so desperately need, to be taken seriously in today’s economics.

 “So basically, you’re on a full-time course with no money to live somewhere or eat or anything.”

Russell explained since finishing her undergraduate degree, her postgraduate experience has been a real struggle, and not just for herself.

Russell explains as she’s continuing her path to working in law, it’s brutal out there: “I basically only get 11k student loan to pay for the course which is almost 14k. The loan is a tuition that’s only for the course and no additional inclusion for accommodation, food amenities etc. So basically, you’re on a full-time course with no money to live somewhere or eat or anything. And because it’s a full-time course it’s expected that you don’t work either to support yourself.”

She continued stressing how most people studying who don’t have the privilege of wealthier families to live comfortably with, have no choice but to work – resulting in hindering their studies. Russell said: “However many students do work which is why mental health and grades are so, so low. People have been on my course for 1 month and already a huge number are dropping to part time to be able to support themselves (and their families in some cases).

She also said: “However one good thing is that my institution provides a lot of scholarship opportunities to apply for – but for the scholarship money to be enough you need to literally be destitute (or an ethnic minority I think).

She ended her story by saying: “Overall, it’s easier for low-income students to get into medium-pay jobs but when we want to specialise into a higher income job it’s very elitist and you almost always have to have rich parents to be able to get onto any sort of higher educational courses which just isn’t realistic or fair for most.

In a brief conversation with the recruitment team from The City College of Plymouth, they had their input: “The costs can range for certain extra-curricular courses, and sometimes can depend on age and ability, which is so wrong. For instance, if you’re young and have access to the UCAS system you are able to gain points in which these courses can be made more affordable, but older people wanting a career change may have to do access courses – coming at hefty costs. Depending on many factors of the individual, they’re likely to be turned away and not have access, due to how different the education system was when they were at school.

Who’s to blame here, we may ask – the answer may seem obvious. Government? COVID? Local authorities? – town Councils and so on. Have your say, and be sure to follow some change.org or gov.uk petitions, as for people in the UK, signing petitions like these is one of the only crucial ways we can try to get the government to listen to working people. Take a look at some of these current live petitions below:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/585250 – Reinstate the Union Learners Fund

 https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/595815 – Refund Tuition fees from COVID

There are many current and open petitions but unfortunately, there is a lack of signatures and awareness being made regarding the affordability of extra-curricular courses and having the right to have access to learn. You can also make your own petitions via change.org and parliament petitions

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