Young Aussies face a life burdened by cost-of-living pressures and housing unaffordability, so is university worth adding to it?
Young Australians are tying themselves to significant student loans for degrees nearly half believe are a waste of money, a new study says.
Judy Sahay’s education and professional life follows any typical modern Australian; she launched into a university degree out of school, followed her passions, and a decade later she found herself in a professional career unrelated to her initial path.
And, painfully, an enormous HECS debt of $110,000 she now believes was a waste of money.
Ms Sahay’s regret is shared by many, with nearly half of Australians saying they didn’t believe their degree was worth the money it cost, according to research commissioned by online study assistance provider Studiosity.
Of the study, 55 per cent said their degree was a waste because the student loan would take too long to pay off, 19 per cent thought they weren’t adequately prepared for their professional job once they completed their studies, 16 per cent said they would have learned more in the workplace and 10 per cent thought the education standard wasn’t good enough.
Ms Sahay puts the escalated cost of her higher education down to “naivety at the start”.
As a self-confessed maths and science nerd, she completed a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering as well as a Bachelor of Science focusing on chemistry at the end of 2008 at Melbourne’s Monash University.
She then went into the workforce but found the role of a chemical engineer too lonesome and lacking creativity.
This led to her first career pivot when she was hired by consultancy firm Grant Thornton, but it also required further time with the books, so she completed postgraduate studies in accounting.
Ms Sahay then abandoned the accounting game to start her own digital media agency and has served as the managing director of Crowd Media for five years.
Although her career took a turn she couldn’t have predicted, and she appreciates the education has allowed her to progress to where she is today, Ms Sahay told news.com.au she “didn’t have to pay $110,000 to learn those skills”.
“I don’t think universities are a waste, I think my choice in choosing those units was a waste of money and time because had I known what I wanted to do, I would not have done them,” she said.
“It’s one of those things where at 18 you’ve got no idea what you’re doing really, you just pick something and go, yep, I want to do engineering, that sounds cool.”
Studiosity chief academic officer Professor Judyth Sachs says the research shows Australians are divided over the value of a university education.
“However, the data interestingly revealed that a significant number of students are not only attending university simply to receive their qualification but to develop and improve their life and soft skills related to teamwork and organisation,” she said.
Studiosity says a recurring theme from the research is students’ resentment towards the rising costs of a degree as well as the inadequate availability of study support and feedback.
The company’s chief executive, Michael Larsen, said institutions were committing investment to improve this sentiment of poor student satisfaction.
“When universities respond to this feedback and implement appropriate initiatives, the levels of student experience will increase, which is impressive considering the data also stated that 77 per cent of students said university was what they expected or even better than expected,” he said.
Ms Sahay implores young Aussies to have a strong understanding of where they want their professional life to go before signing up for a life of debt.
“I really believe that a university degree does provide a good quality education in Australia, however I think you need to be really clear with where you want to head in say 10 to 20 years time,” she said.
“You’ve got to look at the big picture and work out what you have to study now to get me in that path.”