A recent BBC study found that the least likely group to go to university is currently white males from low-income families. Only 26% of students from low-income backgrounds have gone on to higher education this year, only half of them were white British males.
So why is it in Britain, that a demographic that is so large, don’t feel like they are able to go onto further study. My background is from a small village in South Yorkshire and during the years in which I was at college before everyone began to decide their paths for the future, I saw a number of things that are outlined in the study. The article describes some factors that may stop this particular demographic from choosing university as an option for them.
I was the first in my family to go to university. Although my parents hadn’t gone I was grateful that they were completely supportive in my decision. However, I am aware this isn’t the case for everyone. One of the reasons that low-income white males are tempted not to go to university is that they feel pressure from their families to take a different path. My advice here would be to ask the most important person you can, yourself. Work out what you’re passionate about and where your skills lie and then work out what career this might fit into. From there, research research research. How does that industry work? Are there common routes into it? Do these require university or not? Is an apprenticeship the best route? Work this out for yourself and then have the discussion with your family why that actually is the best route for your future. If you’ve done the research they’ll be bound to understand the decisions you’ve made.
Financial worries always come into the conversation when discussing your options post-18. You will have heard something along the lines of ‘but do you really want to be in THAT much debt?!’ when discussing university as an option. The truth to that statement isn’t actually as it seems though.
Student ‘debt’ isn’t actually that much of a debt as a tax. Really what it is, is a graduate tax that you pay in relation to the amount of money that you earn once you graduate. If you don’t earn enough to hit the threshold (In 2020 this is £26,575) you won’t pay anything back just yet. If you do hit the threshold, the amount you pay back is reflective on your earnings. So if you earn more, you pay more back but that’s only because you can afford to do so.
After 30 years, if you still owe some money, the government will at that point write off the amount you owe.
So in fact, you won't even know how much your degree has cost you until you get to the end of those 30 years. At that point the total amount you managed to pay back is actually how much it cost you to go to university. The ‘total debt’ you owe isn’t representative of this.
So that’s a pretty good answer that you can give if someone begins questioning ‘Why you’d bother having all that debt’.
One reason why low-income males are not going to university is that they might have other responsibilities that are keeping them at home and they feel that a move to a ‘traditional university experience’ is something that they aren’t able to do. This could be caring for a family member or helping your parent/guardian pay the bills with your part time work.
I’d never claim to know each persons situation and tell them that ‘if you want to move away to university, you should do’. It would be ridiculous if I thought everyones situation allowed them that freedom.
If this is similar to your situation then know there are other ways of getting that degree now. You don’t have to move across country to a new city in order to get a degree. You could always go to your local university and live at home while studying. If that’s not an option, know that degrees aren’t only awarded by traditional universities. Colleges in your local area might have degree awarding powers so it’s worth taking a look at that. This might mean a smaller and less busy environment for you to work in while also being able to keep up your other responsibilities.
A lot of colleges around the country are specialist, so if you’re into a specific subject you might find one which fits your interests. There is also colleges and universities which specialise in evening or weekend classes, so that may be a good fit for you if you’re worrying about fitting in your studying around your work or if you have to care for a family member.
For more information about going to university check out our student zone here.
Take a look at a video of our manager Aron here where he talks about being the first in his family to go to university.
ARON TENNANT is the Talks and Editorial manager and designated GDPR Data Controller for Push. He is originally from South Yorkshire and has a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Sheffield. He also has a MA degree in Creative Play and Screenwriting from City, University of London and came runner up in Nickelodeon's international screenwriting competition in 2018 and his short film ''Donkey Tooth' was screened at the London Raindance Film Festival in 2018. He is IMDB credited and alongside Push he does screenplay work for independent production companies and is working on his own independent film and theatre projects and writes articles for JumpcutOnline.com.
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