University is pitched as some of the “best years of your life”, and will set you on the path towards a stable career. For those lucky enough to be Scottish students studying in Scotland, you are fortunate enough to have your tuition paid for by the Government. However, even those of us who can take advantage of this have to deal with the next punch to the purse: materials.
Since arriving in the States, I have been shocked at the absurd prices of books; $103.00 for a 254 page journalism book – some even stretching to well over $200. The problem is not just isolated to the USA; back home in Scotland, books are not exactly the cheapest material.
The average American college student can expect to graduate having spent over $1200 on textbooks and supplies alone. Add in tuition fees and loans on top of that, and the average college student can expect to have $28,400 to pay back per borrower.
In the United Kingdom, the story is no better, with some students expected to graduate from university saddled with over £53,000 of debt after a three year degree programme.
With all of these numbers in mind, the actual cost of studying for higher education is near ridiculous. Before a student is even considering the possibility of getting a job, marrying, having a family, and buying a house or a car, they are laden with debt into the tens of thousands; often this means they are unable to take out a mortgage due to it reflecting poorly on their record.
For many years there has been a growing trend across the world’s universities of fewer students from low income families going to university. Wealthier students have the potential to attain better jobs or use family wealth to pay off their debts, whereas the poorest are discouraged by the costs of university.
Although tuition fees are a considerable factor in this, the cost of the actual degree is boosted further by the huge costs in books and supplies. Nevertheless, the UK saw a 10% rise in low-income students being granted university places in 2014; Scotland also saw a rise this year, too.
These figures are encouraging, yet university remains a realm for those well-off enough to afford to attain a degree. With increasingly competitive job markets, an undergraduate is sometimes not enough anymore, and so additional costs come from Postgraduates, and further education.
Student union organisations are highlighting the issues of student living costs, but the governments and universities must tackle this issue head on. Yes, book costs are set by external forces (publishers, markets, materials), but if universities actively seek out materials that are not so costly as the most comprehensive, up-to-date editions perhaps students will save money.
They say university is the best time of your life, but why can your future not be made better by reduced debts, and less stress over affording some of life’s most basic needs? It is time to make university worth it again.