THE Man-in-Charge made a journey up the A 64 last week to collect some of Secondborn’s ‘stuff’, as she calls it, from university.
It’s nine months since we first delivered her to the campus and, as I recall, we had to make two round trips to convey all her pots and pans, drying rack, laptop, bedding, clothing, posters and shoe collection to the accommodation block on the campus.
And so it was that last weekend we had to go through for a second time in a week to empty her room. “Why has she got so much stuff,” said the MIC, as we packed suitcases and stuffed boxes. He said much the same thing about Firstborn and his extensive array of kitchen equipment and jackets.
Firstborn’s girlfriend is quite sniffy about such acquisitiveness. Her family lives in Switzerland so when she came to university here she had just one suitcase to carry her possessions and was careful not to incur excess baggage charges as she flew backwards and forwards for the holidays.
Every summer for the past four years we have done the ‘moving out and moving in’ routine with one or both of the Offspring. In almost every case we have turned up to discover that absolutely no packing whatsoever had been done, so we did that as well. Last year I even found myself cleaning a student house because its occupants had chosen to spend their last evening there playing games instead of scrubbing the sink. They rewarded me with fish and chips.
But from now on we will only have one student in the family. The Boy has graduated at long last. Modesty prevents me from bragging so let’s just say that he did quite well and has a job lined up with an excellent Huddersfield company in September. No parent could really want or expect more.
As well as educating our children, I have learned that the university experience serves another important function. It allows young people to grow up and spread their proverbial wings within a controlled environment. They gain independence slowly but surely.
Nine months ago we were concerned that our second born, a much quieter and less outgoing personality than her brother, might find it challenging to live away from home.
But, within 24 hours of arriving on the campus last October she’d made friends and discovered that it’s quite possible to walk into a roomful of strangers and find someone to talk to. She has made her own dinners, travelled about the city on her own, and completed essays without me looking over her shoulder. Admittedly, bags of washing with a student attached to them have turned up on our doorstep with a certain predictability but it would be wrong of me to expect fully-fledged independence from one who had previously been so mollycoddled. I blame myself entirely and, if I’m completely honest, don’t really mind washing and ironing her clothes. I remember my own mum doing much the same for me. Come to think of it, until recently she still was.
The university experience may not be for everyone - I managed a year at college before gratefully accepting a job – but it can be a useful bridge between the world of school and the world of work.
Unfortunately for the next batch of students, currently awaiting their A level results, it’s going to be an exceedingly expensive bridge. So costly, in fact, that they will begin their working lives with the equivalent of a small mortgage hanging over them. Will this skew their view of money, debt and social responsibility? I fear it may. I have already heard young people discussing their intent never to pay the money back if they can at all avoid it. And, I suspect, with rising unemployment, there will be those who won’t be able to, even if they wanted to. While the banks tighten up on lending young people are getting themselves into hock before they’re even fully grown.
At the end of her three-year degree programme Secondborn will owe around £10,000 in fees. Had she been born a year later she would leave with £27,000 worth of fees to pay. There is no justice in this, so who can blame those who don’t see why they should clear their debt.
I predict that this new ill-thought-out policy will end up costing the Government more than it ever expected in its most fevered dreams. But, of course, it may not be this present Government who will have to face the consequences.
The policy may also deprive a generation of the experience of living away from home and all the opportunities for personal growth that entails.
It is another financial disaster waiting to happen.