A University Student’s Controversial Path to College Education Funding

Faced with few financial aid opportunities, the lack of affordable housing, and minimum wage jobs falling short of covering his bills, Tyler*, resorted to a controversial path to navigate his way through college.

As the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. With both of his parents incarcerated, the former Swansea University student found himself close to repeating the pattern. He shared his story with the BBC.

He Was On His Own

Tyler turned eighteen with no family around. His parents were both in prison.

He had a good relationship with his grandparents until the summer after his first year of college. When that relationship eroded, he was left entirely on his own.

Struggling With College Expenses

College is notoriously expensive. Scholarships are available only for the top students. Financial aid in the form of grants and government loans is limited.

Often, private loans are the go-to for students from middle-to-low-income families. Loans also require some sort of collateral or a guarantor—essentially a means of ensuring the debt will be repaid.

As Tyler had neither, he had to pay double the amount for his student accommodation – an additional £800 at the start of each semester.

Minimum Wage Jobs Aren’t Enough

In addition to loans and grants, many students rely on employment to cover their educational and living expenses. Unfortunately, this can create significant challenges that hinder their ability to succeed.

Take Tyler, for example. He had to work a job to afford not only his university courses but also his rent and food.

While there are job opportunities available to students, most of them offer only minimum wage. Retail positions and fast-food gigs can be helpful, but the wages they provide are insufficient to keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living.

Hardship Funds Helped Temporarily

Tyler faced this problem. His job wasn’t cutting it, and he lacked any kind of backup support. In an interview with the BBC, he told reports he applied for supplemental funding from Swansea University.

“I did get hardship funds, which did help a lot. But I think at 18, 19, 20 years old, a grand without much in the way of financial planning is only good in the short term.”

The Bills Kept Piling Up

Unfortunately, landlords and school bursars don’t often care about a student’s personal life. They want to get paid; if you can’t pay, you’re out.

Tyler took on more jobs. He took financial management sessions. He tried and then tried harder—the bills kept piling up.

He Got Creative

During his third year of school, he had to repay a bank loan. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He decided the fastest way to repay his debtors was to sell drugs.

Marijuana and college campuses go hand in hand. Despite its illegality, Tyler didn’t think it was a big deal. Marijuana, or weed, is a Class C drug. The grading system for illegal substances ranks them from A to C, with A being the most offensive.

Selling Class A drugs such as cocaine or LSD can earn you life imprisonment. By comparison, Class C substances are punished with up to fourteen years.

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He Did Not Care If He Got Caught

Tyler sold weed; he figured if he did it caught, it wasn’t so bad. He also wasn’t all that optimistic about his future to begin with.

“The odds weren’t in my favor. If you look at the statistics, every statistic says I should be dead or in prison or on the streets. I think that a lot of children of people who go to prison go to prison themselves because there’s no infrastructure when they need it.  I didn’t have a mum, a dad, an uncle, anyone when I was 18.”

Things Worked Out Better Than Expected

It appears the odds were in Tyler’s favor. Though he engaged in illegal activity to do so, he eventually graduated and now works in tech.

While Tyler’s story has a happy ending, he is well aware things could have gone differently and by no means endorses the route he took.

“I came out the other side. Most people either stay selling and get themselves in prison, or they become like coke addicts and get themselves into debt. I was neither.”


*Names have been changed to protect identity. Featured image is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the individual(s) mentioned in the story. This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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