Monday, 24 September 2012

The Cost of a Degree

I'm doing a degree with the Open University at the moment, and I get really annoyed when my friends enquire about how they might go about a similar endeavour. Not annoyed at my friends because I have anything against them doing the same - the more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned. I get annoyed that I have to tell them that they may have to pay thousands of pounds more than me for the privilege, and all because I snuck onto the system earlier than they did.

For those not familiar with OU degrees, here's basically how it breaks down. You do modules that each carry a certain number of points at a certain level. Undergraduate level 1 corresponds to the first year of a degree, level 2 to the second and level 3 to the third and final year. Usually, you need 120 points from each level for a degree.

So, 120 points of part-time, modular study corresponds to one year of a degree, except you don't (necessarily) do 120 points every calendar year (you can, but you'd better have a lot of free time and/or a penchant for late nights). Anyway, the cost of each course is roughly proportional to the number of points it carries, maybe more if it's a residential course or for certain subjects like law and IT. So whether you study four courses worth 30 points or two worth 60 for a year's worth of study, you'll pay roughly the same for the total 120 points for that level. When I started studying with the OU, the cost for 120 points of study was roughly £1,400.

However, since the university tuition fee reform here in the UK, the cost has gone up drastically. Now you can expect to pay £5,000 for 120 points of study - that's a 350% increase in tuition fees. And remember, that's five grand for a single year's worth of study; to do all three years of a degree, you'd now I'd have to pay £15,000 instead of £4,200.

Luckily, since I started studying at the lower rate I can continue on these lower fees so long as I keep within certain rules like studying something every year and finishing by a certain time. If I'd started studying one academic year later, or if I step outside the guidelines (e.g. by taking a year off studying) I would/will be on the higher rate, and there's just no way I can afford to do that.

"Arrrr!" I hear you cry. "Aye, but there be grants available fer ye if ye wants te study, but ye cannot shell out the doubloons fer it". Well, not for me, since I already have a degree, so I can't get any financial aid for another one. Then again, maybe this is my problem - perhaps I'm being selfish in wanting to broaden my education? Is another degree really just a selfish endeavour I should be made to pay through the nose for? I don't know; I'm just glad I started when I did.

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