I was talking about uni fees and EMA cuts with my mum & P when we went to the British Museum last week; and there have been a few thoughts bumbling through my head ever since.
Now, I didn't get an EMA - although I would have qualified had I gone to the local state whatever, because of where my parents worked, I was in private education (government-funded, but private nonetheless) and I didn't qualify. I wouldn't have even thought to apply, to be honest. But that doesn't stop me from seeing it as a lifeline, or as the single deciding factor in whether or not someone stays in school after GCSEs. It might just cover bus fares, or food, or uniform - but that is what makes the difference; school education might be free in this country in that we don't have to pay fees to go, but there are other associated costs. Cutting EMAs is effectively cutting opportunities before they've really even gotten started - forcing kids to abandon their education and start work in a job market where 16-24 year olds have the highest rate of unemployment of all working age people.
As far as fees go - mum mentioned something a collegue had said to her about the cost not being that high; it's only £9000 a year maximum. However, assuming that most unis will put their fees up to maximum, as they did when top-up fees were introduced, we can use it as a standard figure. Let's assume that the average student goes to university for three years as an undergraduate - that's £27,000 of fees. It's not a lot if that's what you've paid for your kid's education every year since they turned 13 - but it's more than a lot of adults earn in a year (nine grand is more than some adults are able to earn in a year, and this assumes that the hypothetical student is able to find a job that pays this much while allowing them time to study properly).
But that £27,000 isn't the only number - it's just for one thing. It doesn't cover cost of actually living - and I'm not talking about going out on the lash every night; I mean rent, food, utilities - the basic stuff everyone has to pay for.
Most universities in London tell their students to budget £100-150 per week for rent alone; UCL advises a weekly budget of £245 per week for everything. I don't really know what rent is like outside of London - but I imagine it'll be a little cheaper; however, because London is expensive, let's continue taking London as an example - living costs are going to be roughly £9500 per year - a further £28,500 needed to go to university. I'm sure there will be companies willing to loan that to students as well as their fees - making a charming £55,500 loan. Which is more than my mum's mortgage. Brilliant. And I thought being able to pay for a MA was going to be tough.