The hidden costs of doing a degree.
The cost of getting a degree seems to generally be advertised as covered by student finance, with maintenance loans and grants as the basis of living costs per year. The ‘fees and funding’ section of the University of Kent website suggests that based on a first year student living on campus, students should budget for between £7000 and over £14600 for the year, exclusive of tuition. Obviously, this is a huge range and far from even the maximum amount of student finance available, and doesn’t even include the unavoidable hidden costs, but why not?
Rent, food shopping, bills, money for going out, textbooks, clothing and other extras are factors which everyone probably considers before choosing university. However, even paying between £3000 and £9000 each year, the costs of an undergraduate degree still aren’t completely covered. On top of this certain universities make students pay unreasonable amounts in lab or studio fees, paying for trips, buying extra equipment, purchasing materials for their courses – all of which quickly add up, but for some reason aren’t included in tuition fees or really discussed at all as a point to consider before applying.
Other course-wide, often unadvertised costs I’ve personally found includes books, mainly in terms of how expensive they are; costing anywhere from £20-£70 and upwards, and only a few, if any, available in the library, just keeping up with the required reading can be enough to dry up student loans in the first couple of weeks. Also, to add to this reading list, for each of my modules so far I’ve been expected to print off and bring in handouts, extracts and translations to lectures and seminars. Although only 5p a sheet, each week I print out between 10 and 20 pages average per module, not counting essays or lecture slides and find myself wondering why exactly the university don’t consider these to be part of ‘tuition’.
Finally, as it’s a serious issue for most students at this time of year – deposits and admin fees. Sorting out housing is a necessity, and one that ended up last year being much more expensive than I would have predicted. Paying a £400 deposit (alright, you should hope to get this back, but it’s still gone for the next year) and a £155 “admin fee” (for what, exactly?) at the end of the term was far higher than what I’d expected and suddenly made my overdraft situation desperate! At the time I thought we had been ripped off with this huge charge but from what I’ve heard of other landlords this year, this is actually a pretty average figure. Added to that the fact that not only did we have to pay rent over the summer, but we had to pay a month in advance of each month – more than my loan could cover, and yet another unexpected cost of university living.
With most of these costs being essential, why universities, the government, and anyone giving advice on higher education still aren’t clear and open about them from the start just doesn’t make sense. Getting a degree is a serious commitment and not one that students should have to go into without being told the facts, as even the raised fees don’t cover more of these costs they need to be explained to potential students. At the moment the idea seems to be leaving students to discover just how expensive a degree can be as they go along – an attitude which definitely needs to change.