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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Debt Owed by a New Generation

I was propping up the bar down at the Surfeit of Lamprey last week with my old friend and fellow Peterville & Gonewylde man, Nigel Snipe-Razzel when we were joined by Henry. I should be more specific. I mean, of course, my long suffering brother-in-law, Henry Treadsoftly who is married to my sister, Hildebrande.
"Given a pass for an hour, old boy?" asked Nigel, with one of those grins.
"Oh, er, yes" Henry nodded "Hildebrande has gone off with the ladies of the Much Vexing Music Society to London. Apparently, they are seeing the premier of a new piece by Godfrey Overblown-Blythe."
"It's atonal" he added in a tone of dry distaste.
I digress, though. The issue I wanted to get onto was student costs. It came up because Henry and Hildebrande had laid on a meal for our nephew, Paul, my youngest brother's boy. He has just finished his last year at Warwick and is expecting a two-one or first in Business Dymanics & Demographic Accountancy. I am told it's going to be the in-demand skill over the next decade. William, being William refused to come to the rest of the family either to get the boy into a decent Cambridge college or for money so the lad is in debt to the tune of 16k before he has even started.
What I don't understand is why sucessive governments of this country thought that everyone needs to go to University in the first place. In my day, the top one to two per cent went, they were supported by grants and they came out and got decent jobs. Now, we are told that over half the pupils in the country are to go on to further education. At that level the country cannot afford grants or other intervention. Instead, we have a scheme that sucks them into a cycle of debt that many of them will not get out of for years after they qualify.
You know what this is about, don't you? It keeps the unemployment figures down while the interest fills the coffers of government. The losers are the students, of course. Set high goals, they go off, believing they have a bright future, come out the other end of this educational sausage machine and find the job pool won't support that many graduates so they end up working as agents in a call centre or in a pizza bar earning under twelve thousand a year.
And do you know how much it costs the parents if they choose to pay the fees and expenses for their progeny? About twenty thousand a year, I'm told, now. That's a fair whack even for us supposedly well-heeled types.
What I don't understand is why there is any problem with leaving school and becoming an electrician or a plumber. Lord knows, they cost me enough to bring in when there is work at the manor. I don't believe I have ever met a poor plumber, electrician or tree surgeon. They all tell me they are in demand and I can now believe it. The chaps who would have joined those ranks have all gone to university to study Applied Psychology or worse, Politics. (Although the latter isn't what it used to be. You can't even get your moat cleaned out on expenses, these days)
I have some sympathy with the young despite their noisy music, taste in clothes and that facebook thing. To be given aspirations and then let down is no way to begin your working life.