The new face of uni: can you afford it?

We’re in a brave new world when it comes to university education – but not everyone believes it’s a positive step forward.

At the time of writing, tuition fees stand at £9,000 for more than half of universities in England and Wales. And if Universities UK, which represents all major universities in England and Wales, gets its way, the fees cap will be removed entirely.

Yet fees are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to university. Over a four-year period you’ll shell out for accommodation, textbooks, a laptop, utilities and travel costs.

Parents are continually shocked at how much they have to subsidise their kids during study time.

Speaking to national newspaper the Guardian, student’s mother Marlene Oliver, said, “We had no idea how much it would cost us when Bonnie started, although we estimated about £3,000 a year.

We gave her £105 a month for subsistence and phone, plus countless other payments. The highest costs are from May to October – the interim period between when one year’s funding stops and the next starts.”

The plight of the working class

If you’re a working class student, the possibility of maintenance grants could keep the dream alive.

But in Chancellor George Osborne’s 2015 budget it was revealed that grants would no longer be an option, arguing that it was “basic unfairness” to ask “taxpayers to fund the grants of people who are likely to earn a lot more than them”.

Whether you agree with the Chancellor’s point or not, one fact remains – attending university is becoming an increasingly remote possibility for poorer students.

For many, the prospect of tackling a degree for four years only to enter an aggressive job market feels like a roll of the dice that isn’t worth making.

Amidst all this doom and gloom, some students are looking towards different paths – and universities are more than happy to help.

The perfect alternatives?

Indeed, many are finding the education they need with an online degree programme. When provided by a reputable university, these courses can offer you a full degree and the ability to study whenever you want – and all markedly cheaper than a bricks-and-mortar university.

In austere times, these courses give you the opportunity to study while you work. In essence, they can give you the same breathing space as university but without the extra cost.

Many universities have even begun offering free courses, in the form of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). While they don’t offer any bona fide degrees, they can act as an effective sampler to help you decide which degree to choose.

Osborne’s austerity cuts are hitting the education sector hard – but with the right attitude, you can still make learning a productive experience.

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