(Note: This blog is about the UK Higher Education system and refers specifically to UK Higher Ed and its sources of funding)
We all know that the most efficient pathway into the acting industry is to go to one of the main Federation of Drama Schools schools. The fees for most courses is around £9000 and then there’s living costs on top of that. It sounds bloody expensive. It is. From my own experience, Drama School courses are very expensive to run and the cost is often much more than the tuition fees (these places receive additional funding too).
Since education in the UK is no longer free at post-compulsory level, you are going to have to pay, and for most people, that means getting into debt.
I frequently see people on Facebook saying that they can’t afford to go to drama school.. They often cite that they don’t come from a wealthy family (neither do I), don’t have a lot of money saved (who has?) and can’t afford to get into that much debt. I think they are wrong, I think they do not understand student debt.
I want to challenge the view that says that you can’t afford to go to drama school. Anyone who is good enough to be accepted can afford to go. Yes, there will be debt, but it won’t make much difference to your life.
And let me explain why.
The negative concept of debt has been stoked by the media and politicians. We all need to obtain credit to get on in life, a house, a car - and nowadays - an education. But a student loan operates very differently from any other kind of debt.
It doesn’t go on your credit file and if it all went wrong, it can’t stop you getting a mortgage. So, it’s not like a normal loan. It expires after 30 years. Which means that if you don’t pay a penny of it back across 30 years after you take it out, you won’t ever have to repay it.
Worried that you will be so crippled with debt that you won’t be able to afford to live after graduating? Worried that the additional pressure will make being a jobbing actor almost impossible? Well, the truth is, unless you are earning over (at time of writing) £21,000, you will pay exactly £0.00 back.
If you earn about £30,000, you will pay about £67 per month, which is very affordable.
But what about the amount you borrow?
Well, if you borrow £50,000 and you earn £21,000 or less for the next 30 years- you will pay back £0.
If you borrow £80,000 and you earn £21,000 or less for the next 30 years - you will pay back NOTHING.
If you borrow £50,000 and you earn £30,000 per year, you pay back just £67 per month.
It doesn’t really matter how much you borrow, because at £67 per month, you will only pay back £24,000 over 30 years. So even though you borrow £50,000, you won’t even pay it all back!
If you have great success and vast financial success, your payments will rise, but they will only ever be 9.25% above £21,000 until it’s paid back. And if the payments are big, it means you are earning a lot.
I’m not talking about the ethics of free higher education. I would happily go back to Higher Education in the UK being free, happily. I’m talking about the pragmatics of going to drama school here, now, today.
I hope that you can see that with figures like this, you CAN afford to go to Drama School and finances are NOT a problem stopping you.
So, if you were worried about not being able to afford it, and you were worried about being crippled by debt, it won’t happen. You will be fine. Stop worrying. And fill in the application form.
To You, The Best
Mark Westbrook is the Studio Director at Acting Coach Scotland.