It just takes a little common sense to avoid the ‘urban poor’ trap

14th Aug 2017
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There has been so much conversation about ‘urban poverty’. Some call it reeking of privilege in a country as poor as ours, some staunchly stand by them because they made the same mistakes once upon a time.

I have a slightly different take on this. Or rather, I have seen around me a whole different variety of urban poverty. Picture this – youth from small town, middle class families, parents who can’t afford to pay for masters’ degrees, the pressure to get higher degrees just to stay relevant in the job market, jobs, and campus placements that don’t pay enough from the get go, and having to pay for rent, food, utility, bare minimum weekend indulgence to stay sane, and education loan EMIs. Even those with minimal lifestyle aspirations have it hard. Believe it or not, not everyone is ‘urban poor’ because of their lifestyle choices and gourmet sandwiches.

Image : Shutterstock

Image : Shutterstock

Ours is a country where ‘merit’ appears to be rewarded a tad more than necessary. It tends to relentlessly remind ‘average people with average education and mark sheets’ that they deserve to have things harder. If one can’t see that this is a real problem, they probably lack empathy. Or some perspective on how much easier things can and should be for everyone and what real inclusion and empowerment truly means.

Don’t listen to everything they say about expensive education and the urgency with which you need to pursue it

Because chances are that you don’t. There is so much pressure to study more just to earn more. I am not particularly sure that everyone needs an expensive MBA just to enter the job market. If you have been fortunate enough to pick up resourcefulness and communication skills through school and undergraduate years, don’t fall into the expensive MBA trap without even trying to get a job without it. Ours is probably the only country that still seems to believe in completing all levels of education in one go, with close to zero perspective from outside classroom and college canteens. That is a probably a good reason why nine out of 10 MBAs in India are unemployable. There is only so much a mere degree can do.

If you can get a job after your graduate degree, why wouldn’t you work and save for a few years before the pursuit of a postgraduate degree? At the very least, it will expose you to the real tropes of work life, enhance your skills and employability, and prepare you for MBA and campus placement interviews.

There are options other than that bank loan everyone is going after. Use them

Bank loans can often be exploitative with their hidden charges and interest on moratorium period. Read the fine print before you put your name on the dotted line.

Other options include employers funding higher education, fintech and P2P financing platforms that require lower collaterals, and government grants.

Treasure all that paperwork if you do take loan. It is going to help you claim tax breaks and benefits.

Weigh your pros and cons. Ruthlessly

The most important of all – make the right choices. Even with all the funding options, if you are not getting into a B-school or any other masters program that will actually add value to your income, don’t pursue it. You will just end up spending a couple of years amidst the thriving mediocrity of our universities and learn very little. Chances are you will need the same resourcefulness to get and keep a job that you would have had to with an undergraduate degree. Just that now, you will have the added pressure of an education loan you need to pay off. If you think about it logically without external voices or peer pressure telling you what to do, you will be able to evaluate your choices more objectively.

Whatever you do, just remember that neither your degrees nor your flashy lifestyle choices make you who you are. In our day and age, you have exposure to alternate life paths and platforms to up skill at the proverbial click of a button. If you are still falling into the peer or parental pressure trap, the least you can do is not expect sympathy.

Here are a few more reads on funding education in the new age:

  1. This startup has helped over 35 educational institutes collect fees digitally
  2. At Quiklo, it takes just a marks sheet for students to get a gadget loan
  3. This NBFC startup has built a loan book worth Rs 100cr in just 2 months
  4. With collateral-free loans, MPOWER makes studying in the US easy
  5. Bengaluru-based Neev Finance helps tackle fee woes by providing loans for K-12 education
  6. How to get loans for education
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