Naked Politics Blogger
A recently published study conducted on first-year university students in the UK found that over 15,000 students “reported that they had a mental health problem, compared to the approximately 3,000 in 2006.” Coupled with the fact that student suicides in UK universities have increased by 79% from 2007 to 2015, we’re left wondering what exactly is tormenting our student population.
You don’t have to look far to find plenty of sources spelling out the seemingly unsustainable situation facing students in 2019. The rising cost of tuition and insurmountable student loan debt has become increasingly dire throughout much of the developed world, and it’s affecting their mental health.
While there are many theories as to what exactly is going on in the education system today, ranging from an emotionally tolling “hook-up” culture to increasing levels of social isolation brought on by technology. Perhaps the most quantifiable factor is the desperate financial situation that students are facing today.
It’s no secret that the financial circumstances that students face today regarding their education are more difficult than they’ve ever been for previous generations. At an average cost of £ 9,250 per year, the only country that has comparable tuition costs is the United States.
Many UK students will graduate with debts of over £50,000 with interest rates of over 6%. Needless to say, this puts an enormous amount of stress on students in the UK as the financial burden of earning an education may outweigh the benefits for some. [How? You don’t have to pay it back?]
The difficulty of the situation is compounded for the youth as more and more job prospects require higher levels of education, while at the same time, attaining a university degree has become increasingly challenging due to a variety of financial factors.
In fact, an economic crisis may be brewing considering that “between 1992 and 2018 the proportion of people aged 16-24 years in full-time education increased from 26.2 to 43.9 percent”, which, when in tandem with the increasing costs of tuition across the UK, has led a surge of student debt and perhaps an untenable financial environment.
What will this mean for the financial stability of the UK? Only time will tell. While concerns about rising student debts are nothing new, the £428bn of unsecured student debt in the UK may set off a chain of unforeseen financial calamities.
Unfortunately, Parliament hasn’t been making any major strides in addressing the matter. There has been little progress in cutting the cost of tuition across the UK, the government has been providing fewer and fewer education grants to students, and wages for low-skill jobs such as those occupied by students have not kept pace with the rising cost of tuition and living expenses.
Today, 8 out of 10 of university students in the UK have taken up part-time work while going to school, earning an average of £412 a month. While some may be able to survive on such a wage with parental financial aid and supplementary loans, a financially independent student living in an expensive housing market such as London is living under enormous financial strain while piling on more and more debt.
One thing is clear, the situation that the UK youth face today regarding their education is tenuous. Where the situation will lead is still unclear, and the spectre of a disorderly Brexit could make matters worse.
However, looking to the United States, one can see that the fervour regarding educational financial institutions is unlikely to die in the near future. While the problem hasn’t been as front and centre in the UK to the extent that it has been in the United States – especially with public figures such as Bernie Sanders pushing for free education – it’s quite possible that student debt reform may become a more unified Trans-Atlantic movement that will change the dynamics of the student loan industry at large.
Although, it’s uncertain what this will mean for indebted students and the financial institutions that command the student loan industry. Perhaps Parliament will create a solution, but that won’t happen until the dust has completely settled from the current Brexit fiasco.
While the student debt situation cannot go unaddressed, the devil is always in the detail. What should Parliament exactly do to alleviate the matter? With more and more students attending university every year, there’s an issue with resources. Without raising tuition, many UK educational institutions may cease to be able to function at an adequate level.
On the other hand, loan forgiveness policies may cause market ramifications that could put a serious strain on the economy and spook investors, yet if nothing is done at all, there’s a chance that an even larger economic catastrophe could evolve out of the increasing instability of the matter.
As is often the case in politics, sometimes there are no good options. For now, it seems as though UK students are still being left out to hang in an unfortunate state of uncertainty.