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I’m Over £43,000 in Debt After Uni. Was It Worth It?

After the trebling of tuition fees back in 2012, the financial side of getting yourself a degree is a concrete concern for the modern day student. Despite repayments being dictated by our earnings, it’s safe to say that most graduates experience a certain level of doubt as to whether the amount they’ve spent was worth it.

Josie Quint, still on the job hunt two years on from graduation day, explains why – in spite of everything – she refuses to regret her decision to go to university.

I recently found out that the total cost of my degree came to over £43,000.

If you had asked 18-year-old pre-Freshers’ me how life would be going for my future self, I’d have told you that as a Modern Languages graduate approaching 24, I’d have my shit together.

Nope. No. Non. Nein. Nuh-uh! Unfortunately, my shit is sat in the toilet bowl, looking back at me, cracked, sweetcorn-ridden and unable to flush.

I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. Whilst I sometimes hear people say, “you’re but a lamb!” and “you have your whole life ahead of you”, which, for a split second forces me to forget about my woes, I know that as I walk down the street in my daily ‘fitness’ gear, others are starting to look and wonder whether this customary Lycra attire is a sign of my becoming a personal trainer, or a drug addict. Fear not, I am not popping down to the chemist to get my daily methadone shot. I am simply a university graduate.

After graduating from Edge Hill University in the summer of 2015, I left it a good year to pluck up the courage to get in touch with Student Finance UK and enquire about my ever-growing debt. My mum had been harping on at me about how important it was to ask how much I owed. And, yes, mums always know best. But even the notion of being in the red was sending me into a quarter-life crisis.

I was among the first cohort of students paying £9,000 per year for tuition fees, so I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Alongside an already staggering £27,000 for my fees was the price of my accommodation, food, parties, more food, fancy dress costumes and other useless crap that I had amassed over the three years spent studying towards my 2.1 in Secondary Modern Foreign Languages (French) Education.

“There was a stomach-churning black mark against my name and there was no running away from it.”

My mum was right; I needed to bite the bullet. So I called Student Finance and I asked them to clarify the exact amount that I owed at the time. I felt confident; I was being an adult, dealing with my finances. I was being proactive, getting shit done.

But, the bravado didn’t last; my confidence soon turned to disbelief. I even had to ask the pleasant lady on the phone to repeat the amount. I couldn’t have heard correctly… “That’ll be forty-three thousand, six hundred and seventy-eight pounds, altogether.”

I was completely lost for words. There was a stomach-churning black mark against my name and there was no running away from it. The interest alone had gathered a few thousand in the year that I had been a graduate. And, worst of all, I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I was back at home, living with my parents. I was unemployed and it seemed that I had been sold an unreachable dream.

Now, university was great fun and I can’t deny that it was money well spent on banter. After all, how often do you get to be the Cumbrian girl thrown out of the SU for Russian dancing on the pool table?

Though, now that I am actually having to ‘adult’, I’m wondering whether university was an investment worth making. I applied to Edge Hill University with big dreams of becoming a French teacher. I was a confident undergraduate, a girl from the sticks making big movements.

Two years since graduation, I am still unemployed.

It seems that I have lost my joie de vivre. Despite my initial excitement, I’ve now lost my passion for teaching. I find myself applying for absolutely anything, just to have a sense of purpose. I feel like everything I am, including fluent in French, means diddly squat. I’ve scrubbed toilets, served pints, packed candles on the production line and worked in a golf pro shop (where I was often ambiguously asked ‘what’s your handicap?’).

“I can’t help but feel that I wasted time, energy and money on university”

Now I spend my days scrolling through jobs websites feeling totally disheartened. I feel low and unfulfilled. I can’t help but fear that I wasted time, energy and money on university. I haven’t been propelled into adulthood; if anything it seems like I have taken backward steps. Did feeling this way really have to set me back £43,678, (and the rest)?

It comes as a small comfort, but at least a quick look on Twitter reassures me that I’m not alone.

I am “overqualified” for most jobs. I am “no longer eligible” to do an apprenticeship. I receive ‘unfortunately you have been unsuccessful on this occasion’ emails every day and whilst university is a positive experience for many, there are plenty, like me, who are struggling with the realities of life as a graduate.

I’m so tired of having to tell people that I’m still looking for a job, especially given the interest that I’m continuing to rack up on my student loan. The dream I was sold in 2012 and my current reality are worlds apart, but you never know what could come along and I’m ready to put myself out there.

While right now, my A4-sized degree certificate seems overpriced and overrated, I haven’t given up.

Getting up, dressed (into my Lycra) and applying for jobs is a struggle, but I refuse to believe that things aren’t going to get better.

Hopefully one day I will look back and think that university was worth every penny. For now though, I’ll listen to my mum, who always says “you regret what you don’t do, not what you do”.

I did it, so no regrets. As much as I hate to say it, mums are always right.

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