Just to emphasis how very old I am, I was a student back in the days when they actually gave you a grant to go to college. Oh, sure, they looked at your parent’s income to make sure you weren’t the son of a gazillionaire, so it was kind of means-tested, but the principle at the time was that if you needed money to enable you to go to college, you could apply for it, and in theory receive it.
This does seem like a million years ago now, I know – today students have to take out sizable loans to pay to go to college (even if they’re planning on doing a socially useful job like being a medic), whilst the taxpayers don’t see any discernible drop in their taxes as a result of the money saved. And oddly enough, the present government were recipients of grants, but have whittled away at them, whilst simultaneously encouraging 18 year olds to go to college. I might think that their motivation was less ‘I’m all right, pull the ladder up’ or motivated by a wish to keep teenagers off the dole figures if, say, they offered to pay back the grants they were given, adjusted to allow for inflation and the RPI, but hey, what do I know about it ? I’m sure this is all part of the government’s avowed agenda to emphasise ‘education, education, education’, and no doubt my puny little college-educated taxpaying brain isn’t clever enough to understand all the complicated details.
Anyway. When I was a student, my grant came from Sheffield Council, as that was where I lived at the time. Whilst there was a lot of lamenting generally at college about the tardiness with which grant cheques were sent out or received, I think it’s fair to say that my tale of woe may be among the front-runners: the grant cheque for the first term of my second year was (drum roll) a term late.
Yes, that’s right. It was so late – well done, Sheffield Council, glad I moved away once I started earning so you didn’t get any of my money in the form of Council Tax – that term had actually ended, and I had to travel back to college from home, pick up the cheque, and then put it in the bank. Pretty startling.
Actually, while I’m on the subject of student poverty – and it appears I am – I survived during that period because my parents sent me money (thanks, Mum and Dad), though I recall at one stage I lasted a day or so on a combination of tea, custard cream biscuits, and Superted multivitamin tablets.
And speaking of custard creams, my final tale of student woe: during my revision for my third year exams, I was – difficult as it may be to believe from the results – actually working pretty hard, doing several hours of revision before allowing myself a break of any kind. One afternoon, after an hour or so of revising some jolly law topic, I stopped to make myself a cup of tea, and as the kettle boiled, realised I had a custard cream biscuit left. Yum, I thought, that’ll go well with the cuppa. I poured hot water onto the tea bag and left it to stew for a moment or so. Then I took a teaspoon, stirred the tea a bit more, fished out the tea bag, and picked up the biscuit. And threw the biscuit into the kitchen bin, and spooned the still-very-hot teabag into my mouth.
See? Told you I’d been working hard.