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Students' career path choices which can dodge that debt

Farming | Published:

Many school leavers will go to college to either study A Levels (academic route) or diplomas (vocational route).

Chris Jones is involved in land-based education, training and mentoring

Virtually as soon as they start these study programmes they have to try and work out what they want to do in less than two years’ time at the age of 18.

So what is the choice for students who want to go into a land-based career such as agriculture, animal management, equine management, countryside management, horticulture, and so on?

We know completing a higher educational qualification such as a degree means, in most cases, taking on tuition and maintenance loans to pay for the studies and living expenses.

These loans will mount up and an average student at the end of a three-year degree programme can expect to incur an overall loan of between £40,000 and £50,000 and currently the Student Loan Company which administers these loans is charging 6.30 per cent interest. Interest starts to accumulate as soon as you start the loans. Just stop for a moment and think about the debt being incurred here.

So what are my options? There are four recommended options for students once they leave college at 18 or 19.

Option 1 – Find a job working for a reputable employer who will support your future development with in-house and external training programmes which focuses on your development and progression. The great news here is that you do not incur any tuition debt, but could be beholden to the employer and progression can be slow.

Option 2 – Find an employer who is willing to support you through a higher and /or degree apprenticeship which will develop and support your career ambitions into becoming a professional in an area of your choosing. Through this route employers will pay for a significant proportion of the costs, but it can be slower in gaining your NVQ Level 4/5, BTEC HNC/D or foundation degree or degree.

Option 3 – Continue at college to study a BTEC Higher National Certificate Level 4 and the BTEC Higher National Diploma Level 5 and then if you want to, top up to a degree at university (one year). This option will incur tuition fees, but at a much lower rate (approximately £6,000 per year, while at college) and if you still live at home the maintenance costs will be lower and could well mean not relying on a maintenance loan.

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Option 4 – Go to a recommended university that has a good reputation in your chosen area of study, which also supports a period of industry experience with a comprehensive range of employers. This will incur, in most cases, tuition and maintenance loans and will be the most expensive way to gain a level 6 (degree) qualification, but could be the most rewarding in terms of social and economic experiences.

Some options will be harder to find and or achieve, but I would recommend to look into and research all four and then make your mind up.

Chris Jones is involved in land-based education, training and mentoring

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