University life and the bank of mum and dad

Parents are increasingly having to foot the bill for university study and not just extras, but everything in between.



You may have young children and be thinking childcare costs are exorbitant and things can only get better once they get to school. Think again if, at the end of school, your kids decide to go to university. Not only will they end up saddling themselves with a lot of debt, which they may or may not have to pay off, but so will their parents. Because the student loan doesn’t even cover the rent.

This year we will have two children at university. One has left it until the last minute to apply for her loan for next year so we’re not yet sure how much she will get and she also hasn’t yet secured accommodation for next year. However, judging by the other who will be in the first year and therefore able to get subsidised student accommodation it’s very likely that her loan won’t cover her rent because, even in student accommodation, that is the case.

The two girls have very different approaches to this issue. One is likely to work her way through the entire course and already has savings from a year spent working round the clock in a cafe. The other is likely to live on pasta, go out very little and come home often to top up on food. Either way both will need an injection of cash from the bank of mum and dad just to buy the pasta and the tickets home.

And they are the lucky ones. The only way university is even vaguely affordable if you don’t have parents to support you is if you live at home and/or work full time to support yourself. A study this week shows how difficult it has all become. Daughter two says if you do a course that requires project work around half the students don’t turn up to project sessions because they have a full-time day job. Daughter three has friends who are living at home and studying and it’s not the same experience at all in terms of learning to live independently from your parents.

Given all the hurdles they are likely to face in the future and all the pressure of target hitting in schools, shouldn’t they at least be able to enjoy their student years?

As it is, many of the young people I talk to seem to have no idea what they want to do. Many of them are doing barista or other types of jobs and travelling. Maybe none of us knew what we wanted at that age, but there is a kind of sense of lost-ness about them.

They don’t even know where to begin despite all the apps and internet tips and what not that are thrown at them. Half of them seem to be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. At least that’s my impression. Some are looking after their parents. While mental illness can be due to many things it feels like a lot of it is environmental these days – a malady of the times. Young people urgently need someone to invest in their futures.

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