Fear of rising costs is blamed for deterring mature students from university. THES investigates.
FOR Melissa Coward, entering higher education is an opportunity to get into a profession after working as a shop assistant.
When she completes her access course she is hoping to enrol on an applied social studies degree programme at Accrington and Rossendale College. This could lead to a year training to become a probation officer.
Such a move would turn Ms Coward, who left school with a couple of O levels and a handful of CSEs, into the kind of success story education ministers would love.
But she says her hopes would be dashed if she was expected to pay fees. With two young children to support and little prospect of increased earnings in the short to medium term, the extra cost would present a real financial barrier to entry.
Ms Coward, , is worried that although she has little cash to spare she will not qualify for a fee exemption if the means test takes her partner's overtime into account.
"Most of my money goes on looking after the children. So if I was asked to pay fees I would have to go back to work and give up the idea of going into higher education," she said.