'My first week at uni has been a financial nightmare'
I can already clearly see that this is the first of many gruelling weeks of academic work, as well as practical experience and assessments.
It’s the end of my first week at university. I’m a first year post-graduate diploma student in children’s nursing. I must say I’m quite nervous, but very excited. I found out last night that the trust in which I will work all my placements is Guy’s and St Thomas’. I am over the moon! I feel very lucky and know that I must make the most out of this amazing opportunity.
So, let me give you an insight into the week myself and my housemate Katherine (also studying the children’s nursing PG Dip) have experienced. It has been a financial nightmare, to say the least. At the beginning of the week, NHS Student Bursaries informed Katherine that she was eligible for a grant of approximately £1700 for the year. Two weeks ago Student Finance England (SFE) told us that, as PG Dip students, we are not eligible for a student loan of any kind, as had been available previously. Katherine’s bursary of £140 a month barely makes a dent in her rent of £600 per month. Luckily, I’m getting a larger bursary, however we have had no choice but to apply to a major bank for a Professional and Career Development loan, which we must begin to pay off exactly one month after our course has finished. I am waiting to hear if they’ll let me it.
Student Finance England removed funding for PG Dip nursing students this academic year, but did not properly inform us of it. Katherine and I have talked to the university finance department, student services and the student union, heads of department and of course, many individuals from SFE. The regulations were changed about six weeks ago, and this has not been communicated to the university and many of the telephone advisors at SFE. Much confusion still surrounds this issue, with many of my fellow students still waiting for a loan that will not appear. They even have paperwork from SFE showing the amounts that they will apparently receive. It’s quite ridiculous.
I am determined to not let these financial issues stop me from pursuing my studies.
It has meant that I have had to ask my parents for help and I am twenty five years old. I simply would not be able to live in London and continue this course were it not for their help. I know that my mother, an HCA is working extra shifts to help me, and I feel such guilt. I know how many options there are, I know I could become a brilliant nurse by studying closer to home and therefore I am upset that I entered into this without being given all of the facts. I signed the lease of a property in central London before being informed that I would not receive a student loan. The university had assured me that I would be eligible, so to find that I am not after making serious financial commitments was rather disheartening. My life has changed completely, in many ways for the better, but I am financially, perhaps emotionally, worse off after this experience. I hope it will all be worth it and am counting on nursing being as wonderful a profession as I perceive it to be.
Unfortunately, these issues have clouded our first week of university.
However, we are also dedicated to becoming brilliant nurses, and already know that we will be given every opportunity to do this. I felt compelled to write about these issues in this blog, but next time I’ll discuss the more uplifting and positive experiences of meeting mentors and preparing for placement.
Louise Dyer is a first year student studying for a MSc/Post-Graduate Diploma in children’s nursing at King’s College London.