Student finance: in real life

In the third instalment of the series, we ask Chloe, a University of Manchester graduate who now works as a Community Engagement Lead at the West Midlands Combined Authority, for her thoughts on student finance. Chloe was one of the first students to experience the tuition fee increase from £3,000 to £9,000 a year, but (spoiler alert!) she still thinks university was one of the “best decisions” she’s ever made!

How did you feel about money, specifically student finance, before you got to university?

Growing up in a single parent household my Mom never really talked about money. I was vaguely aware that we didn’t have as much as other friends from school, and we were mindful of what we spent, but we didn’t discuss it in any great depth. I never would have known how much my Mom earnt, or what sort of salary to aspire towards in a career, so the idea of earning over £25k and paying back your student loan seemed a really abstract idea.
When I learnt about student finance I remember finding it all really stressful and overwhelming – I felt really worried about the concept of debt, and couldn’t get my head around the fact I would be clocking up over £45k of it with a full tuition and maintenance loan! My Mom was really stressed about the costs because I went to University in 2012, which was the year that tuition fees changed from £3k to £9k and it very nearly put me off going to university altogether.

Has your opinion on student finance changed since then?

My opinion has changed massively since then; I learnt in real terms how much I would be paying back each month and realised it really didn’t matter that my ‘loan’ was so much larger than other friends at university. Also, after getting a bursary from UoM and a part-time job, I found myself to be really comfortable at university. I had more disposable income than I’d ever had before, felt like I could keep up with my more affluent friends and didn’t miss out on anything.

Now you’re a graduate, I wondered how student debt feels for you? Is it a burden, or do you not really notice it?

Since graduating I have never had to worry about student finance. When I first graduated I had a job as an intern and didn’t earn enough to start paying it anyway. As I progressed in my career I could see how the student finance was always in line with what I earnt, and it was only a very small proportion. I don’t even notice it coming out of my payslip each month. I very much doubt I will ever pay off my student loan but I know it will clear after 30 years and will continue to be a small sum that disappears every month without me thinking about it.

Do you think university was a good investment?

For me, coming to university was one of the best decisions I ever made. I learnt loads but more importantly it changed me as a person, made my world infinitely bigger and I become a more rounded person as a result. Before I came to university I thought that doctors, lawyers, etc were superhumans and I had never met one outside of a professional setting – I now have friends in all those careers and don’t feel intimidated to talk to them. There is no way I would have had the career I am having without my investment in university.