I was trying to explain the other day to daughter one why it was that she was going to be landed with a likely £27k debt if she decides to go into higher education and why I didn’t have a similar debt to pay off. “There are more people going into higher education now,” I started. “The Government can’t afford to pay for them. You’ll earn more if you get a degree, though.” “But you didn’t have to pay anything back, did you?” she asked. “It’s not very fair, is it?” she concluded. Daughter one is very hot on justice and had just had a session about the crown prosecution service at school.
I told her that when she’s bigger she can go on a student protest – after all, it is her generation which is going to be affected, not the current student population. “But I’ll get arrested,” she said. The poor girl had been so intimidated by her talk about the crown prosecution service that she thought demonstrating was illegal. “You are allowed to protest if you think something is wrong or unfair,” I explained. She wasn’t convinced.
I wanted to explain to her that her generation has got a tonne of debt around its neck because our generation has emptied the cupboards. She will probably be living with us for ever, even if she doesn’t want to. Something she cannot envisage at the moment. “Why would I ever want to live anywhere else?” her youngest sister asked. Daughter two has actually designed a separate wing of the house which she intends to occupy once she turns 18. It has a fountain and everything.
She will probably be pushed into doing some sort of professional qualification if she goes into higher education, rather than the subject she currently loves with a passion, which is history, since a history degree probably will get her a job paying over £21k but only just and she will then have to pay back her tuition fees.
She may not have a job, since all the jobs will be done by volunteers – okay, I’m exaggerating here, but once they’ve started running the libraries etc with volunteers are they going to recreate paid jobs there? There will be less and less money for the unemployed. She will have to work till she drops and she will probably have to look after her parents as we won’t have a pension. Plus who knows what impact climate change will have on her generation when they grow older?
It’s hard not to sympathise with the young and not to feel that they have landed up in a world which is very short on optimism or hope right now.