According to statistics, England is now one of the most expensive countries to study for a degree making it unsurprising that some people are thinking twice before deciding to embark on a higher education adventure at a university campus.
A report from the OECD shows that those with degree-level qualifications earn around 60% more than those with only secondary-level education - an impressive return on investment by any standards. Even so, racking up the level of debt incurred by students in the UK is still a daunting prospect.
So, do prospective students need to grin and bear it, or is there anything you can do to reduce the cost of a university degree?
1. Look for scholarships, fee waivers and bursaries
Universities that charge over £6,000 per year are obliged to offer financial assistance to students from lower income backgrounds. In addition, many universities and some charities offer regular sources of funding to students based on other factors, such as academic excellence, sporting prowess or musicianship.
There are three major types of funding to look out for: bursaries, scholarships and fee waivers.
Scholarships and bursaries are similar, in the sense that the money is given up front. The major difference between the two is that scholarships tend to be aimed at students with excellent academic records, whereas bursaries are usually designed to support students from low-income families.
A fee waiver, on the other hand, pays part (or occasionally all) of a student’s tuition fees, thus reducing the amount of money you need to borrow when taking out a student loan.
2. Consider studying online
Another option would be to consider studying in a non-traditional setting. Distance learning degrees often work out considerably cheaper than those heavily revolving around on-campus classes.
While an undergraduate degree at most universities can set you back £9,000 or more each year, studying with Arden will cost just under £13,000 for the whole course when you opt for distance learning. This equates to savings of more than 50 per cent.
For those who prefer the thought of a more structured university life, blended learning gives you the chance to study a degree by attending classes two days a week and combining this with independent, online study. An undergraduate blended learning programme at Arden currently costs close £18,000 - still substantially more affordable than the standard £27,000.
What’s more, distance and blended university students are still eligible to apply for student finance to cover the costs of studying.
3. Look for employers that will sponsor your studies
If you have a career in mind, you could be lucky enough to study for a degree without the fees. By sponsoring students, employers end up with a graduate who is highly-trained and knows their company in-depth.
Typically, sponsorships like this involve working with the company during holidays or part-time and studying for a degree the rest of the time. There are many companies who have developed specific recruitment programmes involving this approach, including Experian, KPMG, Capgemini, and CGI. However, even if an employer doesn’t have a specific course developed, it could be worth approaching them to find out if it’s something they would consider.
Similar to this is the Government’s expanding degree apprenticeships programme, where apprentices split their time between university study and the workplace. Those undertaking the apprenticeships are employed throughout – gaining a full bachelor’s or master’s degree while earning a wage and getting real on-the-job experience in their chosen profession.
4. Avoid accommodation and maintenance costs
Many students take out maintenance loans to cover their living costs at university, in addition to the loans for tuition fees. While many people want to live away from home to get the real ‘student experience’, if you’re serious about cutting costs don’t discount staying put.
If you’re lucky enough to already live near a university that offers what you want to study, or perhaps have relatives nearby one that does, then avoiding accommodation costs is a great way to cut down on the amount you need to borrow.
If you’re not so lucky with your location, you still don’t necessarily have to take on the extra debt. Again, distance learning could be the solution which allows you to study while you save on living costs.