Full Time? Part Time? Or Distance Learning?

In this blog post I look at the different options I’ve been faced with when choosing how to study for the Masters course in Librarianship and the fees and other financial things you might have to consider depending on which option you choose.

Screenshot_2017-08-05-09-36-19-1It can be a really difficult choice choosing how you study and can make you feel a bit like the illustration above! This is pretty much how I’ve felt the past few months.

Lets start with 3 scenarios in terms of studying for a Masters in Librarianship:

Scenario A)
Take out the maximum loan from the government to fund your full time Librarianship Masters.

The loan is currently: £10,280

If you have a full time job you’d have to quit this unless they were unbelievably flexible and even then it’s probably not the best idea to study and work full time.

Your fees cost £6,500 so that leaves you with £3,780, which isn’t that much to live on for say 10 months- September to June?

£3,780 / 10 = £378 per month.
Most people, I imagine, would get a part time job to help with this.
Lets use an example of getting a weekend job in a library.
Say you get a 13 hours per week job, which from £16,289 full time to pro-rata salary is: £504.18 per month (I used an online salary calculator to get this).
So now you’re income is at least: £882.18

But what about your outgoings?
Using some guesstimated figures for a single person with no children living in/near a city.

Rent per month 2 bed house per person: £300
Bills: £135 (not including council tax as you’d be a full time student, this could be less depending e.g. if you don’t have a tv license, internet costs, phone line etc.)
Monthly train ticket (if you were commuting Leeds to Sheffield – again could be less if you moved though that is costly in itself or could be more if you commute from further away) £224.70

Total outgoings per month: £659.70

Leaves you with: £222.48
For 4 weeks of food, socialising, mobile phone bill, any other expenses like people’s birthdays, holidays and general savings.

This is just about do-able and a lot of people would use their savings if they had any. Also this would only be for a year and you’d hope you’d get a shiny new job after the Masters, but most of us know it’s not as simple as that. It also doesn’t feel good to be living pay cheque to pay cheque and worrying if something goes wrong, like your laptop breaks or maybe your heating bill goes up in the winter, that you don’t have a lot of spare cash.

Scenario B)

Study the Masters course part time and continue to work; full time if your employer lets you.

Part time costs: £2170 x 3 or £2170 first year and £4,340 in your second year if you do it in 2 years – without inflation added.

Money from the government= £0.00

I only recently found out that any course where it takes more than twice the length to complete where a full time option exists will not be applicable for funding. Even though you can complete the part time MA Librarianship course in 2 years you still can’t access any money. How would you fund your Masters then?

-Your employer, if you have a good one, might sponsor you.
-You could take out a bank loan.
-You could wait and save up a lot of money.
(However interests rates would probably make it higher than you could save for over time – the fees would just keep increasing. I was also going to put you could get a Career Development Loan, but they also don’t allow you to use the money for courses over 3 years. That’s what the Gov. website says anyway.)

I think studying part time and continuing to work has huge benefits, but this seems like the most unsupported option from a government funding perspective.

Scenario C)

Study a Distance Learning Masters programme.

Current cost of a Distance course over 2 years: £9,000
Funding from government: £10,280.

So this option takes up a huge part of the funding from the government. You would still continue to work and wouldn’t have any travel costs.

This is an option many people do for good reasons, but you do not attend the university. I’ve heard positive and negative things about distance courses. The off putting thing for me is that the cost is so much higher and the things that are important to me; mixing with your peers, physically going to lectures, asking questions…. being there…. wouldn’t be possible. Obviously lots of this can still be achieved, but it would never be my preference. Also people who are studying  by DL do usually comment that they wish they could go. They’re not sitting there saying ‘Well DL is just so much better!’ I’m not sure if the higher cost is linked to the time and person power used to put everything online, the technology, the training, or if it’s something else. I’d be interested to know why it costs so much more.

These are the 3 scenarios I’d been thinking about these past few months.

I’ve picked B) because my employer has funded me and given me the time to attend my first year of my Masters and I don’t have to worry so much about my finances as I’ll still have my wage. Working and studying will be so beneficial because I’ll be working in the same field I’m studying in. Plus doing it part time will mean I’m not learning so intensively as I would studying in just a year. I am so unbelievably  lucky and surprised this has happened. I haven’t previously worked anywhere that would have done this for someone wanting to progress in libraries and I actually didn’t think something like this would ever happen to me. It was only something I’d heard other people talk about who’d worked in law libraries or other universities (my employer is an HE provider). There is some worry about what will happen for my second year of study. My employer only funds one year of study at a time. I’ve already set myself up with a direct debit to my savings account to try and save over the next year, but there’s no possible way for me to save all of the money needed for my second year. Fingers crossed for next year for now.

All the options listed above have their flaws. When I was seriously considering Scenario A), as had always been my plan, I realised I was thinking about how much I could work around my course to get the money I felt I needed to live off. I hadn’t factored in time to study (I was planning to work weekends and evenings) or when I would write my essays. Also my student debt currently stands at approx. £32,000, which would increase to over £42,000 with a postgraduate government loan. I know student loans are one of the best kinds of loans, but it’s still a lot of money that I feel is hanging over my head. I’m currently still not paying off enough to even cover the interest so it’s just growing and growing. Students who have been lumbered with the £9,000 fees will have much higher debts than this of course. Scenario C) is something I’d not wanted to do considering how close I live to both Sheffield and Manchester who both have Masters courses in Librarianship/Information studies. I also think going will motivate me more and make me a better student. I’m really not sure how well I’d done if I was doing it distance. If I’d have lived further away I would have had to have picked C) though.

I know how privileged I am to be studying for a Masters and that my employer has funded my first year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have concerns and worries. It’s taken me 4 years since first wanting to do this Masters to actually do it and really the sole reason I haven’t been able to is because I’ve never been able to afford it. I’m sure people have waited longer and people have had much worse situations, but for all of us – this is so stupid!

To expand on the above a little more if this is how difficult I’m finding things (these past few months have been awful for various reasons, financially and emotionally, there’s been a lot of waiting and a huge amount of uncertainty) as a white working class woman anyone else with bigger concerns, someone who faces more difficulties in anyway, in any aspect or area of their life, must be finding it next to impossible to even think about doing something like this.

Where is the support?

If most library jobs request, as an essential, that people have a Librarianship or Information qualification the places asking for this need to be supportive of people’s need and want to study. Helping them not only with time, but also with the finances attached to this. I also think if universities want to help people make separate courses/course codes for part time 2 year study. Just do it so people can access the funding they need. The responsibility lies with more than just the individual who wants to do this as their job, life, career, passion. The responsibility also lies with the education providers and the sector as a whole.

(Edit: I had a fantastic response from the university I’ll be attending, which is that next year they’ll be making separate course codes so the part time course will have a two year option officially and then you can apply for a loan! Sending complaints can result in change – my complaint and probably many others!)

Image above by the wonderfully talented Natalya Lobanova

https://www.instagram.com/natalyalobanova

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