Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 28 April 2012

carpe diem and gaudeamus igitur

Whiler JuliaM has a post on cost-conscious students unhappy about their canteen arrangements, a different message is filtering in from the Urchin's contemporaries.

According to the Urchin, the prevailing atmosphere, at least in the Arts faculties, is a kind of fatalistic hedonism. These youngsters have decided that their chosen careers are unlikely to earn them enough to have to pay back their full loans and, anyway, who cares about a debt that remote?

The inevitable progeny of a buy-now, pay-later society, they are busy spending the vast and unprecedented sums the student loan company has placed in their pockets with no thought for making the money last. 'We'll all be in debt forever anyway' goes the reasoning, 'so what will an extra overdraft matter?'

This has become such common practice that many landlords are now asking for a year's rent up front, trying to get their hands on the money before it is frittered away. Nobody expects an 18-year-old to be an expert at managing money, but whose idea was it to present these youngsters barely out of school with a lump sum of several thousand pounds at once?

A friend recently told me that his niece, against her family's advice, spent almost all her student loan on a new car, which she wrote off in an accident a few weeks later - on third-party only insurance. The clear separation of student finance from family influence - though funnily enough they still take parental income into account when allocating grants - has placed a huge burden of responsibility in the hands of little more than children.

When you add the sense of a lifetime of debt hanging over them whatever they do and a 'because I'm worth it' culture that sees borrowing as a commonplace solution - how many people nowadays actually save up for something they want? (apart from my wise and discerning readers, that is) - you have a temptation to seize every opportunity for indulgence that many experienced adults would find hard to resist.

Incidentally, regular readers may remember this from last August, when the Clearing system broke down under the weight of numbers as candidates tried to get places ahead of the fee increases this year:
'There's a sort of January sales atmosphere about the whole business; desperate candidates grabbing any course they can to beat the rush and universities accepting on a first-come first-served basis rather than selecting students on their potential suitability for the course.

It will be interesting to see what the drop-out rate is over the next year.'
I can't speak nationally - and I have been unable to find official figures - but of the Urchin's class at school, at least six have given up so far, making a drop-out rate of nearly 15%.


  1. "... how many people nowadays actually save up for something they want?"

    We are breeding a generation for whom 'deferred gratification' is an alien concept.

  2. Very true - though how we fix it I have no idea.

    Student hedonism is nothing new, of course, but in our day you paid your debts back as soon as you could; this generation are heading for a lifetime of institutional debt - a Faustian pact of education on the never-never.