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How should Higher Education be funded?

6 Oct

It’s a topic that is has been particularly highly debated over the last year, promises were made in the election campaigns, students were canvassed for their votes and Universities demanded more money. However, now we have a coalition government who doesn’t seem to be sure about how they should proceed. The Liberal Democrats promised to scrap University tuition fees for first degrees and the Conservatives covered their backs by saying ‘We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to: increase social mobility; take into account the impact on student debt; ensure a properly funded university sector; improve the quality of teaching; advance scholarship; and attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.’.

However, now it is time to see some action and some decision from our new Government. The average student comes out of their first (3 year) degree owing over £21,000 in student loan and tuition fee loan. That’s providing they don’t get into any extra debt through credit cards or other loans. The system isn’t working, we’ve blogged already about the amount of trouble Student Finance England have been in and the stress it has caused countless students trying to access funding.

Yesterday, the Guardian published some views on the Browne review of higher education funding and spoke to student and staff representatives from Kingston University. Their opinions are interesting, and seem to back up the general consensus that the current system is not fair, but what the ideal solution would be is undecided.

The current system allows students from low-income families or disadvantaged backgrounds to access a wealth of funding, however those students coming from middle-class families with an average income are left with very little grant and a lot of debt.

We don’t know what the solution is, without a pot of money to pay for everyone’s degrees there isn’t an easy option. Graduate taxation doesn’t sound ideal and just means you face longer as a new graduate before you are able to start thinking about getting on the property ladder or having any financial security. The way grants and loans are administered at the moment isn’t right either, with many students from a ‘typical’ university-goer background missing out on funding or saddling thousands of pounds worth of debt. Increasing tuition fees to a potential £10,000 a year would more than triple the debt students come out of University with – not a good way to start your career.

What do you think? How should our degrees be funded? Has opening the doors of Higher Education to everyone meant that a degree isn’t worth as much in the job market? How do you fund your degree/living now? Let us know!

It’s a tricky one!

Love

Clever Student Money

Student Finance: BBC Radio 4 Money Box Live

16 Sep

Good morning campers!

How are we all?

We have a treat for you today, not one but two posts are coming your way!!  The usual Thursday scoop of Delectable Discounts will arrive later on this afternoon but first we have to point out a great radio programme that aired yesterday afternoon on BBC Radio 4.

Money Box Live is a phone-in programme hosted by Paul Lewis and looks at different financial issues every week.  About this time every year, they have a student finance special. Yesterday it was the hot topic and they had representatives from Student Finance England, Kingston University, Student Finance in Scotland and the NUS.

It proved to be an interesting listen, of course there were plenty of worried students and parents phoning in to talk to the SFE rep.  There was some good advice given and good points raised.

If you’ve got time over the next few days, we would recommend listening to the show.  It is available on BBC iPlayer to listen again.

Enjoy!

CSM

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?

15 Sep

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?.

Whilst this won’t affect us right now (remember the Lib Dems campaign trail…student fees to be abolished with immediate effect?), it is still important to think about what is going to happen.  Surely this broken system can’t survive much longer?

What are your thoughts?

CSM

Student Loan Saga: Update

14 Sep

Happy Tuesday all!

We have a present for you today…

The next installment in the Student Finance England statistics is now available to view online.

According to the statistics, 75% of the live applications are prepared for payment, leaving (they seem to have managed to add up to 100 this time) 21% of applications awaiting further evidence and 4% in the hands of SFE, LEAs or local authorities.

Official statistics – SFEngland.

However, having spoken to several dissatisfied students (new and returning), most of the 21% whose application seemingly rests in their own hands are banging their heads against the wall in frustration.  One new student, is now submitting her parents’ financial information for the 3rd time despite having an older sister in the system (3rd year student) whose application has been processed with no issues.  This new student’s mother has been told that she only has one daughter at University despite the elder daughter’s application recognising the financial information from both her parents and the SFE have repeatedly asked for information that has been sent in before, numerous times.  The two daughters share the same parents, the same home address and the same surname.  As this student is starting at University in a matter of weeks, it is difficult for her to feel relaxed about a situation that is entirely the fault of a disorganised SFE.

The SFE refuse to admit that the system has once again failed and is disorganised, time-wasting and stressful for students, and parents, who have so much to do at this time of year

It has been brought to the attention of Clever Student Money that most LEAs have far too many students to process with very few staff, due to having to fund this centralised system from cuts in their own budgets and reduced staffing, however all LEAs have managed to maintain quick turnarounds and push the information through to SFE central office.  As all LEAs are up to date with their applications despite the strains put on them, it raises the issue of the combined figures reported by the SFE as this would suggest that the 29% of applications still pending are actually with the central SFE office.

Clever Student Money have even been told that Student Finance England are in such a mess, they even called a “Red alert” meeting with representatives from The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently.  News of what this entailed or what they discussed hasn’t reached us yet – we’ll keep our ear to the ground for more information.  But this is definitely not what we want to hear a matter of weeks before the first installments of student loans are due.

Like in the case of the new student we mentioned earlier, there are repeated cases where documents are being lost by the central unit after being scanned.  Amazingly, Students have also been sent documents that they shouldn’t have received, the worst of which included a claim sheet from an SFE employee for 52 hours of overtime for the month of May.   When this was pointed out to Clever Student Money, the question was raised of why staff were required to do 52 hours of overtime in May if these problems are arising due to late student applicants like they claim?

One student commented on our our previous blog post to tell us that her friend has even had tuition fee loans confirmed for two separate universities!  Completely bonkers!

We will keep you all updated as we hear more, in the meantime don’t forget to let us know your horror stories of dealing with Student Finance England!

Good Luck!!

Love

CSM

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