Would you be surprised to find out that your daughter was working for an escort agency to help her pay for her rent, her food and now her interview expenses? I spoke to a design graduate last week for whom this was the scenario which triggered me to write this article.

I have a daughter the same age as the bright, optimistic, creative young furniture design graduate I met last week. She told me that she had four interviews lined up in the next month. Great! … but, that her travel costs had meant she had to earn money fast to be able to attend all four. For her, one train journey from the North East to Plymouth – super off peak return – is £232.50. Times this by four and she might not eat for weeks. On the back of having paid tuition fees of almost £30,000 for three years, rent of over £7000 a year and another £1500+ on the costs of exhibiting and staying in London last week, plus the perpetual costs over three years of furniture prototyping materials and printing for her exhibition at Uni, her combined debt was now in excess of £60,000. Not wanting to increase the burden of this loan, she decided to take the work at the escort agency.

Tens of thousands of graduates are in similar situations this month looking for work, yet with an average weekly budget of only £8 for food and toiletries after having paid the rent, travel and interview expenses are often overlooked.

I speak to many employers in the course of a week and some, on hearing some of the stories I hear, are now offering interview expenses to those graduates they shortlist and select for interview. I would urge other employers to think about this as a part of their own process – even just finding out the distances candidates are travelling and the costs they are incurring might make a difference to whether a candidate takes up an offer of an interview or not. And they may well be the best candidate.

I heard one employer say recently that graduates should be prepared to pay their own expenses and make the investment of travelling to an interview as it shows commitment – but times have changed beyond recognition for many of these bright young hopefuls and I would argue that a good employer (and most I work with are) shows that same commitment by recognising and respecting the current financial and emotional pressures these young graduates face.

They are our children after all.

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For further reading see ‘Rent Burden Leads To Student Stress’ on the BBC website at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43157092 (extract below):

According to a recent survey by student finance website Save The Student students are suffering from stress and anxiety caused by all the pressures of housing and general living costs, so are taking jobs that may well send them on a downward trajectory as they fall further and further away from their chosen career path.

The average rent for student accommodation in the UK is £130 a week, eating up nearly all of a typical maintenance loan, even before a typical £500+ in upfront letting fees and a deposit are taken into account.

The maintenance loan is designed to cover living costs. It is separate from the student loan to pay for tuition fees, and is dependent on family household income. It is a loan to be paid back on top of tuition fees. The fact that the maintenance loan barely covers students’ rent is shocking. Students are forced to get a job at the expense of their studies or rely on their parents who may struggle to support them.

“Forget about tuition fees and high interest rates. Now that the government are finally reviewing the student finance system, a fairer maintenance loan should be at the top of their agenda.”

Where to go for help