How much does university cost, and is it worth it? – BBC

By Hazel Shearing, education correspondent & Lucy Gilder, home affairs researcher
BBC News

Thousands of students will receive their A-Level results on Thursday. However, with the cost of living rising, many may be wondering whether going to university is worth the price.
Here's a look at the financial pros and cons.
Most student debt comes from tuition fees, which most people pay by taking out a student loan.
The maximum annual fee can differ substantially depending on where you live at the time of applying for a course:
Although tuition is usually free in Scotland, there is a cap on the number of university places, so there's less opportunity to study.
Then there are accommodation costs. If you are leaving home, it is generally cheaper to live in university-owned accommodation.
In 2021-22, the average rent for university-owned rooms was £6,227 per year, while for private rooms this was £7,732, according to student housing charity Unipol.
Unipol estimates the average rent for a room in London consumes 88% of the maximum maintenance loan – the loan for living costs – available for students in England.
For students in England studying away from home outside of London, it estimates accommodation costs in England account for 72% of the maximum maintenance loan. That leaves students with £69.52 a week to spend on other living costs, it says.
In general, students who choose to study away from home are likely to face higher costs, according to the Sutton Trust. Its 2018 research found students from lower income families are more than three times more likely to commute to university from home than students from wealthier backgrounds. That might save money on rent but will mean higher transport costs.
So for an average degree student in England who pays the maximum tuition fees and chooses to stay in university rooms for their first year before switching to private accommodation, three years of study will mean a cost of £49,441, based on those current figures. But that is before the other extra costs of student life are added on.
Those other costs to consider include:
The typical student loan is made up of two elements:
Students are charged interest on their total loan from the day they take it out.
Once they have graduated and start earning a certain amount of money, their loans are repaid through the tax system.
Eligibility for loans and repayment rules differ in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
If you live in England and you start university this September, any outstanding debt will be written off completely after 30 years. This will rise to 40 years for those who start their course in 2023.
Full-time undergraduates in Wales are entitled to maintenance grants of at least £1,000 – and up to £10,124 for students from the poorest backgrounds studying in London.
For all students, they may be able to get financial assistance from the university itself, or charitable groups, in the form of bursaries, grants, allowances or scholarships.
Students experiencing financial difficulty can also apply for hardship funding, which does not usually have to be repaid.
In general, most graduates can expect to earn more than non-graduates, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
However, it also suggests that the "graduate premium" – the comparatively higher earnings of university graduates – has reduced over time.
The subject taken and university attended can influence how much graduates can earn. Salaries can also vary between men and women and between people from wealthier and poorer backgrounds.
Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies carried out in England suggests on average, women who studied creative arts and languages degrees earned the same amount of money in their lifetime than they would have had they not gone to university.
Women who studied law, economics or medicine earned more than £250,000 more than they would have done had they not gone.
Men who studied creative arts on average earned less across their lifetimes than if they had not attended university, but male medicine or economics graduates earned £500,000 more in their lifetime than they would have done if they had not gone.
Attending university can help students from poorer backgrounds earn more than their parents might have done, according to research carried out by the Sutton Trust in England.
But there are still differences. The same research suggested a fifth of graduates who were eligible for free school meals achieved earnings in the top 20% of the population – compared to just under half of graduates who attended private schools.
This may be for a variety of reasons beyond university choice and subject, though. Graduates from wealthier backgrounds may have more access to information about well-paid jobs, for example.
The government in England says universities should provide value for money. It has announced plans to limit the number of university places to tackle "pockets of some poor quality".
Finances are a key consideration when weighing up whether or not to go to university. But it's also important to consider the other things going to university can offer, such as developing new skills, mixing with new people and experiencing new places.
Additional reporting by Sarah Habershon and Hannah Cox. 
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