Weighing up the cost of a university education

    Cost has become a major concern for anyone thinking of studying for a degree in the UK today. The introduction of tuition fees and the rising cost of living means that many prospective students are having to weigh up the debt they will incur against the possible benefit their degree will bring them in terms of improving their careers prospects.

    This week, the student careers website, CareerMatters.co.uk, has published its analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which states that 58% of students who graduated from university in 2012 failed to get a graduate level job (based on figures of 20% of graduates being unemployed and 38% taking lower-skilled jobs).

    Such a statistic is only likely to reinforce the fears that many young people will already have about the cost of university, particularly those from less affluent backgrounds. If the reason for taking on such a high amount of student debt is to improve the likelihood of getting a higher-paid job in the future, does it seem like a gamble worth taking when the chances of getting a graduate position are less than fifty per cent? The most likely answer will be no.

    However, as bad as things are for graduates, they are not the only ones suffering from this lack of qualification-relevant roles. The knock-on effect of graduates taking lower-skilled jobs is that the lower-skilled applicants who would have filled those posts previously are now being pushed out of the job market entirely. This is all the more concerning, given that those who experience long periods of unemployment before the age of 24 are more likely to remain unemployed in later life.

    All of society suffers from the impact of high youth unemployment, not just those who are directly affected by it. Unless action is taken to improve employment and training opportunities for young people of all skill levels, then we will all be paying the cost of a lost generation.

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