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Do GCSEs really expire after five years?

university feesThe Team Minted collective jaw hit the floor over Sunday roast last weekend when Darling Son declared that his studies were worthless. According to the barber, where DS had been for a trim the day before, GCSEs expire after only five years. 

As Dear Daughter kicks off said exams with Spanish oral tomorrow, this undisputed “fact’ was not received well. The Minted parents rushed off to check Google immediately. It is of course incorrect: an urban myth which has gained traction possibly with the introduction of new, tougher GCSEs which were first sat last year.

Phew! But it did make me think about the value of education, particularly a university degree, in general. Recent government figures suggest that a degree may increase your potential salary by just £4,500 a year for the first nine years after graduation. The average salary for graduates in their twenties is now £25,500 while for non-graduates it’s £21,000. Given that you can leave university with debts of up to £60,000, is a degree really worth it?

I agree that you can’t put a value on learning. I also believe that university teaches many other skills, such as living away from home, as well as being a wonderful social network for later life. However, it comes with a huge price tag. Obviously, the way student loans are structured, you may never have to pay them off if you never earn above a certain threshold: it’s more like a graduate tax than a debt. For those in vocational training, it’s an expense you just have to pay to pursue your dreams of being a lawyer or a doctor. But for those with an eye to the arts or a host of other careers, a degree may become an unaffordable luxury.

The smart option, I believe, is to have a good look at what kind of training schemes are available to school leavers. Many big-name firms now offer these, some with a guaranteed job at the end of them. Even better, you can earn as you learn, ending up with a decent qualification and zero debt. The ones which have piqued my interest include apprenticeships (technology and finance) at JP Morgan in Bournemouth, Rolls Royce or even MI5 for those budding James or Jane Bonds. Another helpful site is Not Going To Uni which lists loads of school-leaver programmes. There really is a world of opportunity out there, without having to pay for it.

Heart still set on dreaming spires? See our SMM guide to investing to start saving for tuition fees.

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Friday, 24 May 2019