(AND NO, THEY DON’T HAVE TO PAY IT BACK WHEN THEY GRADUATE)
Is it fair that students are burdened with the entire cost of their degree, when some of the world’s biggest firms also benefit – and profit – from that education?
Professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) appears to think not – and that companies with deep pockets could – and should – be doing more to help young people manage the spiralling cost of higher eduction. Yesterday, it launched a new programme which will see 60 students receive up to £40,000 over the course of their degree course, to help out with their university costs.
The EY Assurance Scholarship programme works like this. Students studying for a degree in Accounting, Auditing & Finance at Lancaster University, and Accounting and Finance at the University of Bath and the University of Warwick will be eligible to apply, with £5,000 a year on offer to help with the upfront costs of attending university.
Students will also benefit from a paid summer work placement at one of EY’s UK offices in their second year, and a year-long industrial placement in their third year of study.
A further £1,000 per year will be offered to selected students who meet the criteria for widening access to higher education.
Hywel Ball, EY’s Managing Partner for Assurance in the UK & Ireland, said the programme was a great opportunity for young people to “earn while they learn.” Graduate Fog understands that other firms have experimented with special sponsored programmes, but none has yet offered to fund students on existing courses at independent universities, where they will learn alongside regular students. Ball explained:
“Many of today’s graduates enter the workplace with sizeable student loan repayments that last for a large part of their working lives. The EY Assurance Scholarship will give students a financial leg-up, to ensure they are able to focus on making the most of their time at university.”
Students will find that the cash comes in handy, but the (paid) work experience on offer is another big bonus, Ball said:
“Employability skills are essential for today’s graduates and work experience is now considered to be pre-requisite for many graduate employers. Combined with the academic qualifications, skills such as team working, time management and real life client interactions, will help graduates of the EY Assurance Scholarship scheme to stand out in a competitive jobs market.”
But – hang on – what happens if students change their mind about accountancy, or EY, when they graduate? Do they have to pay it all back? Nope – we checked. EY told Graduate Fog they view the investment as more like a bursary than a loan.
While they accept that it’s possible a fraction of the students may drop out, they have factored in a small ‘attrition’ (drop-out) rate when doing their sums. (Which you’d probably expect, with EY being an accounting firm). Besides, they feel confident that their selection process should minimise this risk – so they view any about-turns as their responsibility, not the students’.
Graduate Fog thinks sponsored degrees are an interesting idea – and we’ll be watching developments closely. Although many of our readers have already graduated, we know you take an interest in university funding – and plus, many of you have younger siblings you would like to advise on whether university is ‘worth it’.
Like you, we have witnessed how the cost of higher education has spiralled in recent years. The hike in tuition fees isn’t the only problem – living costs (rent, bills, food, etc) have jumped too, so students are racking up more debt than ever during their time studying. Then there are the unpaid internships too many graduates are expected to do before they’ll be considered for paid work. (And then some of you are even being asked to pay £300 for a reference from your internship – STOP THE MADNESS!)
While we’re unsure about schemes that lock in students to careers or employers they may change their minds about later, carefully planned programmes that are risk-free to students and graduates do seem like a good idea. The big question is, will other employers follow suit?
*DO YOU WISH YOU’D DONE A SPONSORED DEGREE?
Should more firms follow EY’s example and help students out with the cost of going to university? Or are you suspicious of their motives? Is it right that big firms pay towards higher education – or should graduates consider their salary payment enough?