Student Problems

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Now, I have a bone to pick. Actually no, I have more than one bone to pick because I am forever moaning about problems that come hand in hand with being a student, and I think it's about time that I voiced these concerns because I can guarantee a whole heap of students will agree. I mean, it's not going to be world changing stuff, one girl sitting in front of her laptop isn't going to make David Cameron or the bank man see sense, but they do say it's better out than in.

Just so you know, this will probably be a recurring thing. Once more student problems pop into my head I'm bound to turn to my blog and type until my little fingers cannot type any longer. There are a lot of things which are unfair and infuriating, but here are just a few.

#1 Credit Cards
My iPhone contract is currently in my mum's name and who would have thought it would be such a nightmare to try and simply transfer it into my name. The reason I wanted to do this was so I would be eligible to apply the Orange U24 bundle to my account for more minutes and data. In order to change the account name I had to undergo a credit check, which seemed pointless anyway because the money would still be coming out of my mum's bank, it would just be the account in my name. Long story short, the credit check bounced back, simply because I have no credit. It works like this - if you've never had a phone contract in your name or never had a credit or store card, you have no credit. This means that when you apply for any of these things, your credit check gets rejected, not because you have bad credit, but because you have no credit. There's a difference. I came up with the genius idea of taking out a credit card, doing my weekly shop on it and immediately paying it off with my debit card. This would show the bank that I am able to pay the credit card off in full every month, and consequently build my credit so I wouldn't have the same problem in future. But of course, it's not as simple as that. I've applied for two credit cards so far, one with my existing current account bank Halifax, and one with my current student account Santander and I have been advised both times that I am unable to take a credit card out unless I have credit. This is where I start to get incredibly angry. How can phone companies, banks, loan companies, whoever it may be, expect you to build credit when you aren't physically entitled to purchase or own anything which gives you credit in the first place. It's an absolutely ridiculous rule because I intended to put my sensible head on and build my credit so when I wish to get a mortgage in 5 years, I will have good credit. Yet there's a huge barrier. It seems that deposits, mortgages, phone contacts, even, are being governed by such strict, and may I say stupid, regulations, that the possibility of achieving any of the above is pretty much completely out of mine, and anybody else's reach. So, what I really want to know, is how do I break the cycle?

Student Finance
Uni suddenly doesn't seem like such a financial struggle when you discover that you get a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan to help you out over the course of your time at university. When I applied for student finance for the 2012/13 academic year, I was pleased to know that I got a fairly substantial amount of money. It wasn't enough to be comfortable, but I figured I would use money from my job over the summer, and money from going back to my job over Christmas to help me out. In my current situation, after paying for my accommodation I am left with £411 from my loan, and use about £300 from work money which means I have roughly £700 each term. This means I can afford relatively good food, enjoy nights out, visit home, and buy the odd new top here and there. I'd heard other people moan that their student finance was awful because their parents earn a lot, but I never really gave it much thought until it happened to me. Every new academic year you have to reapply for student finance so I thought I'd get it out the way early. When I applied last year, the assessment was based on a tax year where my dad had been made redundant and didn't have a job, so I received the maximum loan plus a grant (which you don't pay back). This year however, because my dad now has a job, I receive £1700 less when I start my second year in September. This might not seem like much of a difference to you, but for me, it means that after paying my accommodation, my student finance leaves me with £580 for the entire year. Yep, you heard it right, £580 for food, toiletries and everything else that constitutes everyday living for a whole year. I'll happily go back to work over the summer in order to try and get a bit of money together and save for next year, but from having £700 a term to less than £200 a term, it will definitely be a struggle. My argument to student finance is this. Why can't they calculate what loan you are entitled to based on your income, and then give you the option to apply for extra money to take you up to the maximum loan. This would mean that if your parents can afford to give you the difference, then you don't take the extra loan out. But if they can't - then you do. I'm not asking to receive a grant, I am purely asking to receive the same amount as I did last year, but all as a loan. I will still be paying back every single penny that I have borrowed and they will be giving me absolutely zero money for free. Just because my parents have a higher income than they did on the last tax year, in this case purely because my dad has a job, which is 1000 times better than living on benefits which is how some choose to do it, it doesn't mean he has a spare two grand in his back pocket to just hand to me with a smile. Sure, I'll scrimp and save because I have to, and I know if I budget correctly then I'll be okay - but it certainly doesn't make the student finance system very efficient in aiding students through university life.

Student Discount
Most high street stores offer student discount. After paying £10 for an NUS extra card which is valid for an entire year, the amount you save if you add up all your high street purchases over the year, for most is probably a substantial amount. This 10% student discount is accepted by Topshop, Topman, New Look, Missguided and Boohoo among many other shops, but one shop who don't participate in this is River Island.  For those who are bound to say 'well just don't shop in River Island then' - that is not the point. I don't understand why they won't jump on the bandwagon with this and make a hell of a lot of students happy. River Island usually comes with a high price tag anyway, so why not give us that £2 or £4 off here and there - we are students after all. It just seems weird because student discount for me is such a standard thing. The minute I step into Topshop or New Look I practically have my NUS card ready to hand in order to get money off. A lot of the time, I'm put off buying from River Island because the clothes can be extremely overpriced at times. Student discount would make my shopping experience at River Island a little more pleasant for my bank balance. I understand that shops like Next and Debenhams don't offer student discount because they don't specifically target teenagers and students, but River Island's target audience are primarily people in those categories, so it's slightly absurd that they are standing alone in this.

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