Cuts to Futures: The Cost of Classism in Higher Education
Throughout my time in college, I got used to hearing “why are you getting a loan higher than me” and “that’s not fair”, phrases that are not only callous but also extremely ignorant. . Coming from a working-class background with low family income, my childhood often consisted of worrying about how my mother and stepfather paid off the mortgage and hearing the phrase “we can’t afford it”.
Right now I can see people reading this and saying why isn’t your family working harder? Let me tell you right now that I have never met someone who works as hard as my stepdad, working 14 hours a day and several night shifts a week. Yes, my mother also works and has to take care of young children. I worked hard to get into University of Birmingham despite the obstacles in my way and I could never have gone to college even in my wildest dreams without my student loan. However, according to recently leaked information, the the government now wants to deny student loans to those who score below DDD at level A. So while middle and upper class students can still attend college, working class students are relegated to the vicious cycle of endless poverty? People often question the fairness of the lending system, but denying loans to those who need them the most doesn’t seem right to me.
Classism in the education system constantly fights to prevent working class students from succeeding in a society that is already rigged for them. According to the BBC, more than half of English universities have less than 5% of poor white students in their enrollment, with universities such as the University of Cambridge and many universities in London having only 2%; for all English universities to reach a target of 5% of poor white students, 10,000 more of these students would have to attend university. Some might argue that the statistics aren’t nuanced enough, many of those 10,000 people may have just decided they didn’t want to go to college. However, I would say that in most cases the lower rates of poor college students can be attributed to the discrimination these students face and the fear that crippling debt induces. The prejudice and discrimination at university, especially at the elite Russell Group universities, presents itself not only in overt ways, but also in subtle ways. I spoke to the only other person I know at UoB who really felt the effects of classism and how it affected them.
Bethany * said they were repeatedly referred to as “chav” and “peasant” by other students, whom they previously considered friends, due to their socio-economic background. These slurs are often seen as humorous and harmful, but in reality they are indicative of the great disparity between classes in the UK. These everyday cases, often subtle, continue to institutionalize class discrimination. These insults also fuel the impostor syndrome that afflicts many working class students. Bethany explains how impostor syndrome “tells you to work twice as hard as your peers to get half as far because you don’t have years of private education and cultural enrichment behind you”; you cannot imagine the disadvantage that lack of private education or good public education can cause you. A syndrome that could even prevent popular class students from going to university; Until I expressed my desire to go to college, my mom thought it was just a place for the rich, something inaccessible due to our financial hardship. Do you know how difficult it is to fight against this internalized classism that troubles our daily lives?
The student loan system is vital for working class students, most of whom would be a pipe dream without this support, including me. Before I came to college, I thought I should just give up on my goals as my student finances repeatedly came back as a minimum loan, although I was entitled to the full amount (which I eventually received, but only two weeks before starting college and after continually harassing SFE). Moreover, just because some are credited with the maximum student loan does not mean that their financial worries simply go away. Growing up in a poor household causes great anxiety around the subject of money, as you watch your parents struggle to pay back overdrafts you learn to be terrified of approaching this withdrawn sign. Bethany says that throughout their studies they had to “watch their finances closely” and work long hours to support themselves, a situation that is not unknown to many students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Matt Kerr, a student at Nottingham Trent University, told me that since they come “from a family that receives benefits so [they] Did not pass [their] A level, [they] would not have been able to join their university course. People from disadvantaged backgrounds should not be penalized for the opportunities and support they lack, and yet they often are.
Students with limited resources are often treated with a laissez-faire attitude. While I wish the previous statement was wrong, from my personal experience I know it is not. Classmates took trips my family couldn’t afford, money was raised to buy review guides, and my sixth grade choices were limited to schools in my area due to the bus fares too high. In more recent events, my brother (who is currently in his final year of GCSE) was ordered to print the Macbeth coin (before the third lockdown) and told him to his teacher that we didn’t printing facilities at home, and that he was unable to print it at school due to the library closing due to coronavirus regulations, the teacher replied “it doesn’t. is not my problem “. While it’s worth mentioning that the teacher finally printed the room for my brother, it wasn’t until a week later, which puts him at a disadvantage compared to his classmates who had access to the room one week. complete before. These near-daily occurrences may seem trivial when taken in isolation, but when lumped together it is undeniable that class discrimination is still pervasive in our education system.
Potential new rules to be introduced by the government would only worsen the already worrying situation lack of representation of popular students in artistic subjects; working class people only represent 12.6% of the publishing industry, a considerably low proportion. Bethany believes the proposed reduction in student loans “will wipe out working class people from the arts and universities.” The government should make an effort to support the very students they might be harming with the proposed changes. Incentives and additional support should be put in place to encourage students from poor families to take up expensive art degrees that many inevitably avoid due to financial circumstances.
Can we also briefly discuss the stigma attached to being a working class student? How does everyone seem to own a MacBook in college, fly abroad at least once a year on family vacations, and never worry about money? I’m sure I’m speaking on behalf of other working class students when I mention the shame we are often made to feel for being ‘poor’ we are seen as abnormal for not adjusting to costly standards. of the society. A good example of this is the age-old debate between Android and Apple, with Android generally being the cheapest alternative, I imagine many working class students are likely to own, but it is also the one that is considered inferior. .
Those who are fortunate enough to be middle and upper class students must ally with working class students and not continue to let their privileges bring us down. The Conservative government must take into account the needs of working-class families, with the debacle of free meals for students, and the possibility that student loans will now be denied to struggling students, are just two examples of the government’s ignorant approach to funding. Working class students, this is a reminder that you deserve to do well, despite your circumstances, and that you can achieve whatever you want, despite the classist remarks made along the way.
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