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University Degrees - Are they worth the current cost?

Deciding whether to go to university is a massive decision to make. Ultimately, it could come down to one of many questions: is it worth getting a degree? Do degrees still provide the value they once did? Is it worth the debt? With tuition fees at an all-time high and the cost of living rising, this is causing a lot of people to consider other options.

University education and experience is something many people still aspire to do. As well as the degree qualification received at the end, the whole experience is supposed to help young people grow in independence, transitioning from dependent teenagers into independent adults who are prepared for the world of work.

However, it's undeniably expensive. At an average of just over £9,000 per year in tuition fees alone, as well as additional living expenses, it's estimated that the total cost of a bachelor's degree over the typical three year duration in the UK sits around £60,000. Under the latest government plans, student loans will have to be paid off for up to 40 years before the debt is completely written off - which is 10 years more than it currently stands. This will start as soon as a £25K salary is earned - which is £2,000+ lower than in the current system.

With the introduction of stricter loan repayment terms continuing to impact the already sky-high costs of higher education, this has prompted many people to think about whether this amount of debt is worth it.

In recent data from WaveTrackR, it has shown that the requirement of a degree in a job ad has since decreased since 2018. The industries with the most jobs needing this requirement is Education, followed by Finance and of course Health/Medicine & Nursing. What's interesting is that relatively few IT & Internet jobs require a degree - this is an indication that more tech companies are starting to offer apprenticeships or are focusing more on experience and/or the soft skills that are needed to learn and thrive in the industry.

Here at Talented Recruitment Group, we wanted to discuss some of the benefits you could experience from getting your degree at university, along with the factors that are making people doubt the value of a degree.

The Pro's & Con's

Greater earning potential - According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, graduates can expect to earn more on average than non-graduates through the course of their careers.

However, the HESA data also reveals that the higher earning power of university graduates compared to non-graduates has since reduced over time. This is because more people are now gaining a degree, leading the supply of graduates to outstrip demand.

Greater job choice - Not only can a degree increase your earnings, but a degree can also provide you with greater opportunities and choice in the job market.

Having a university degree in your area of interest can improve your chances of securing a job in specialised fields up against competition - and it can also be an essential requirement for certain skilled roles and careers.

A report that was published last year found that university can also be a key driver of social mobility in the UK. It revealed that graduates from a disadvantaged background were more likely to become socially mobile and end up as a high earner.

Life experience - There are plenty of graduates that will tell you that the experience of going to university and the life lessons learned, will remain as a key component of getting their degree.

This can include making new friends from various different backgrounds, expanding your network of contacts that will help you later on in life, broadening a range of interests through societies and clubs, learning further life skills - all of which will serve you after you graduate.

Student Debt - Deciding whether you should go to university is a big decision to make, and the cost is a big factor.

Although tuition fees vary depending on a student's home region and where they study - like we mentioned previously, many will be paying £9,250 a year, whilst taking out a student loan to pay for it. Along with additional living costs and the average debt for those who started their courses in 2021/22 will be around £45,800 by the time they actually graduate.

Even though students don't have to start paying back their loans until their earnings reach a certain threshold, they will then be charged interest on their total loan from the day they take it out. Once repayments begin, they can be substantial - some may not be able to pay back their loan within the current 30 years, this is when the remaining balance is written off.

These figures can still change, and not in the students' favour. The government plan to cut the earning threshold to £25,000 from 2023, whilst extending the loan term to 40 years.

'Worthless' degrees - Research carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that in England, on average, men who studied the creative arts earned less across their lifetimes than they would have if they didn't attend university, whilst women with an arts degree earned about the same than those without one.

By comparison, men who studied medicine or economics (the subjects with the highest graduate premiums), have earned around £500,000 more in their life than they would have if they hadn't attended university.

Further data that was previously published in 2019 had found that almost a third of graduates were overqualified for their jobs.

No job guarantee - As great as it is that university is becoming more accessible, the downside is that more people have a degree, which no longer makes you stand out from the crowd like it used to.

That's not to say that a degree has no worth at all, it's important to consider that close to 50% of young people go to university - making it fair to say that getting a degree isn't in itself a guarantee of getting a job in the chosen industry as soon as you graduate.

With that being said, there are definitely some strong arguments both for and against university being worth the money. Ultimately, the verdict is going to differ from person to person. If your dream job doesn't require a degree and you feel as though you can make it without having to go to university, it could be good to consider further education or vocational courses that are the alternatives to university.

However, considering the personal, professional, and academic opportunities that it can give you, even in the modern future, university is definitely still valuable and worth it.

Let us know your thoughts on this debate!

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