Martin Lewis has sparked a conversation about student loans after speaking to an 11-year-old girl who was worried about paying tuition fees.
University is meant to be the great ‘social leveller’ in the UK, giving every person access to higher education.
But the latest State of the Nation Report by the Social Mobility Commission found that, although the number of young people from low-income families entering higher education at 19 is rising, it’s still a much lower figure than better-off peers.
Only 5% of disadvantaged young people enter the most selective universities compared to the national average of 12%. Once there, disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out than better-off students.
And just last year, universities across England had fewer than 5% of white working-class students in their intakes.
Money is often cited as the main reason for this: the average debt of UK students who graduated in 2018 was £36,000, thanks to the 2020 rise in tuition fees and the 2015 scrapping of maintenance grants.
While university absolutely isn’t the right route for everybody; the opportunity to choose should be available to all. But clearly, there are still many financial and social worries blocking prospective students, especially if they are from a disadvantaged background.
In fact, a young girl just illustrated this during last night’s (10 September) episode of The Martin Lewis Show.
Sitting with her mum while speaking to finance expert Martin Lewis over a video call, the girl said: “Can I get passive income, how soon can I get a job, and what’s the best way to save?”
Lewis paused to ask the girl how old she was and discovered she was only eleven-years-old.
“Why do you want to work, is there something behind this?” he questioned, after explaining that she’s, of course, far too young to even worry about having a job.
“I’m kind of just worried to pay university tuition,” she replied.
Lewis then proceeded to give a divisive answer.
“Don’t be put off going to university by the political spittle and fight that goes on in politics trying to scare children off so you’ve got a big debt over your head,” Lewis said.
He went on to explain the student loans system: how you only start repaying once you’re earning enough to do so and repayment sums continue to be based on your salary.
“Go to school, work really hard, go do some reading about finance, I’d love you to tool up more,” he continued. “Go get those good grades, go to university…
“You look like someone clever and I wish you all the best.”
On the one hand, nothing should put young people off going to university and they need to be fully aware that financial aid is available. However, there is also the argument it’s not right that some students get into debt while others don’t – solely depending on their background and family income.
But the one thing that we can all agree on is that an 11-year-old girl shouldn’t be worrying about paying her tuition fees in 2020.
If you know a young person who is worried about money and university, here are a few helpful websites with guidance and information: