It’s that time again, rant o’clock.
Among the pile of letters and packages I returned home to after being away for 12 months in Australia was one from the Student Loans Company checking up on me because I’ve been unemployed (or so they believe) for the last year. Aside from various death threats and warnings about tax avoidance they included a statement of how much I owe. I thought it had to be wrong when I first looked at it – the amount of interest was so high – but after a quick look on the internet I discovered with horror that I am indeed being charged a whopping 1.5% APR; a LOT for someone who owes as much as I do. 1.5% doesn’t sound so bad, but every year I will be charged more and more interest as my debt builds, until I start earning just under 17,000 when I’ll start paying off enough to keep the debt the same, but no less because the interest will always offset any amount I pay off. This is happening to thousands of graduates all over the country and the government is making a mint out of it.
It sparked a major discussion in my household and instigated some less than benevolent feelings on my part.
I realise that politics is a cruel sport and the economy is in a mess and we need money coming in from somewhere – but from the poor and unemployed? Really? All the way through college young people are pressured into going to university because they are told, and I don’t mean given the impression, I mean explicitly told that it will better their life, career, future and well-being. You leave school at 16 and are expected to make all your future life choices after just one year and decide what you want to do, where you want to do it and who you want to be. For the majority this is impossible because we lack the knowledge and experience.. and maturity. So we make wild guesses, hope for the best and see where it leads. Currently it leads into mass unemployment or menial jobs and debt.
English Literature, that’s academic, that’ll benefit me in some way.
The way this country goes about educating young people on their futures is all wrong. Having a degree isn’t everything – I learnt that the hard way. You don’t need a degree to do every single job in the world. I can tell you that you don’t need a degree to go into television for example, or to go into radio. All you need is passion, drive and determination. I’m not saying I regret doing my degree or Masters because it helped shape who I am and although I jumped on the bandwagon like everyone else, at least I decided to study something that I enjoy and am reasonably good at. Hopefully it might even benefit me one day. But how many people did I meet on my English course who didn’t enjoy English? Who didn’t even like reading? And the university still let them in..? Far too many. At the time I thought these people must be pretty stupid, and as far as life choices go I suppose they were in that regard, but if they didn’t enjoy the subject why were they there? What possessed them to think it was a good idea? Well it’s obvious isn’t it. Because that’s what everyone else is doing and that’s what their lecturers and college or sixth form told them to do, so you better pick something, fast. You forget how much pressure is put on people at that age; how little time you have to make a decision. English Literature, that’s academic, that’ll benefit me in some way. In fact drop the ‘Literature’ just English will suffice. That word alone ticks some imaginary boxes somewhere.
One of my best, best friends at uni, bless her heart, shocked me in the second term of our third and last year when she told me she didn’t know how to use the self-scan machine in the library to take out books. I mean… just incredible. What can I say about that really?
What would I have done if university wasn’t the only option given to me though? What would I be doing now? No wonder the government is so supportive of higher education – because after all the jager bombs and lengthy library sessions are over they start making a shit ton of money out of you. You’re a major source of income. So is the insurance on your mortgage as my dad pointed out, but at least that’s a debt worth paying. That debt helps you buy a house. It’s not really the same as an A4 certificate with your name on it is it?
You owe us another 300 quid interest. Oh and make sure you buy a stamp for that envelope eh love?
To top it all off were the forms they sent me to fill out. The forms that, if they are neglected to be sent back within 28 days result in me being issued a penalty and included a self-addressed envelope which I have to go out and buy a bloody stamp for.
I don’t care how the system works, I am outraged. And to think, they don’t have to deal with any of this crap in Scotland, which leads nicely onto my next point; just to add insult to injury guess where the Student Loans office is based? (check out the lovely letter head below.) Bet you just love that don’t you Scotland? Reminding us English folk how much we owe the government when you all pay diddly squat.
Not even back a fortnight in the UK and already I’m loving it.
If you want to find out more information about your student loan check out the Income Contingent Loans page and if you’re feeling a bit rough about it perhaps take a little look at the url and smile at the accidental significance of one of the surprise words you’ll see in there. If anyone is going to pay off their children’s debts, it’ll be them!
Take care comrades, until the next rant o’clock..