Being middle class but also a bit of a lazy arse, I’m one of the few people in higher education who shares both the virtue of having been on the dole at one point and not being one of those creepy mature students. You know the ones I mean. The ones that go to the Strathclyde Union by themselves and wear leather waistcoats. (See also: Every Status Quo fan, ever.)
Anyway, being in this enviable position, I feel I am well equipped to help you, the reader, decide if it’s worth slogging through three to four years of a challenging university course; emerging out the other side fresh-faced and eager, diploma clutched in hand and with a lifetime of mediocre desk jobs ahead of you…Or if you’d rather just get given money. For free. Like, without doing anything for it. At all. Ever. Except lying.
But before you run out to whatever store it is helps you stock up on fur coats and gold teeth, I’ve come up with an innovative point-scoring system that will be used to determine a clear winner by the end of our little journey.
1. A Degree is Cruise Control for Classy.
Let’s begin by examining one of the benefits reaped from the path of higher education, shall we? If you have a diploma, then your opinion is automatically more important than anyone else at any given time. Should you ever be met by the rebuttal of someone else with a degree, it is customary to assume a crouching position, arms out-stretched, then slowly begin circling each other whispering ’Krav-Maga’. Then you wrestle.
Once you’ve got the wrestle out of the way, you can both lord over your less ambitious friends who were shackled down by a lifetime of underachievement and have the last say in any debate no matter how unrelated it is to anything you ever learned at university. Seriously, I’ve not even graduated yet and I have never been wrong about anything in my life.
By contrast, if you are on the dole then you are automatically assumed to be educationally sub-normal, because no one smart has ever been made redundant or felt the sting of a recession-sized employment deficit. I’m not kidding, if you ever meet someone who signs on and they claim to have finished high school they are lying to you and they want to rob you. Do not look them directly in the eye and make your way slowly towards an exit (the eyesight of the working class is primarily attracted to movement, just like dinosaurs).
Now that you are in the safety of your superior IQ bubble, chalk one point up to the students.
2. Becoming a Student – I Hope you Like Fucking.
Fact: Students have more sex than bees, that‘s just cold hard science. If you are a student and you are reading this then, statistically, you are having sex right now. For a lot of people, university is the first real length of time away from your parents, (apart from that fortnight in Ibiza where that weird guy who couldn‘t really speak English made you do some stuff you‘re not proud of,) and the newfound sense of freedom usually translates into sleeping with anything that even vaguely resembles the same species.
On the other hand, it is very unlikely you will get your end away while signing on, unless grizzled forty-something tradesmen and ninety-pound smack heads get your motor running. Although, if you are frequenting the labour exchange then there is a good chance you didn’t finish high school and, as such, are the accidental parent of at least five children already, probably all to different mothers and fathers. So I guess you get a lot of sex, too. Granted, most of it takes place under the harsh light of a neon kebab shop sign at three in the morning, but still: way to go, stud. Students win.
3. I Have a PhD in ‘Would You Like Fries With That?’
Like I said before, no one who has a degree will ever be unemployed ever. That just doesn’t happen. I mean, what would be the point in spending four years of your life building a debt the size of the Liberian deficit only to find out the job market is irreparably up shit creek? That would be madness, and we shall speak of it no further.
No, rest assured that when you step out of university feeling like Rockefeller you can march straight down the street and right into your local branch of McDonald’s and have a trainee manager’s position within the hour. Congratulations, you are at the same level you would have been if you’d just worked there for four years, only now you are considerably poorer!
That last sentence kind of sums up the dole side of things too, the only difference is while you’ve been on the dole working your way towards a McDonald’s job at least you were getting given money to do it. And you’ve probably drank enough low-grade liquor that the thought of working for a terrifying clown man no longer bothers you. One point to the dole.
4. It’s Not Free Money. Trust Me, You Pay For the Service.
As I pointed out at the beginning, I’ve lead the kind of extravagant lifestyle that afforded me the opportunity to both sign on and go to university. In a way, I’m very much a modern-day John Lennon, and given that I am intimately familiar with both methods of scoring free cash, I can tell you now that signing on at the brew beats trying to get a loan off of SAAS. Hands down. Any day of the week. Forever.
Every year that I’ve applied to SAAS they have managed to cock it up in the most spectacular ways imaginable. They send my award letter to the wrong address every year, even though it hasn‘t changed in three. I could phone them, true, but that it is a struggle akin to that of James Corden and Matt Horne trying to come up with a funny sketch and then you being forced to watch that sketch. What I’m saying is that it is both impossible and completely unbearable.
So how does cashing a giro fare? Well, the council aren’t much better when it comes to this sort of thing, to be honest, but in their defence at least they’re having to begrudgingly give away money they will never see a return on. So, as long as you’re able to deal with the occasional snide remark and roll of the eyes, you should have no problem signing on.
And get this: if you are poor enough then the council will pay your rent for you AND give you money for food and booze and stuff every other week. Undisputed victory for the dole.
5. Sounds Too Good to Be True, Where Do I Sign?
As we come into the closing stretch of what I think we can all agree has been a thoroughly scientific analysis, the only thing left to do is compare the workload you’ll be facing with whatever choice you make.
University will be hard. It will take a long time, you will have to work hard and there is no guarantee of a job at the end of it. You have to write essays, give presentations, sit exams and, if you don’t want to spend the next four years fighting off homeless people to get at the bins outside Tesco, you’re going to have to shoehorn a part-time job in there somewhere, too.
On the dole you don’t have to do anything. Every fortnight you go to the Job Centre to say you still haven’t found a job. Then all you have to do is lie about looking for jobs in a little diary they give you. After a while they’ll stop checking that, too.
And you get free money. Seriously, are you listening to me? They will pay your rent and give you spending money and all you have to do in return is pretend to look for a job. Unlike a student loan, you will never have to pay this money back when you get a job, not that you ever will get a job, though, because you are getting given money for free. The Dole wins. Again.
Well the scores are in, and, unsurprisingly, signing on has won. I realise that since I am a student who will primarily have his work read by other students that I am basically telling their collective futures to suck my dick but, hell, if you can’t figure out that YOU GET FREE MONEY FOR FREE IF YOU SIGN ON then maybe you are too stupid to be unemployed, anyway. Enjoy your academia, losers.