Liz Lee, Amac’s Managing Director, explains why Amac do not offer a finance credit scheme for their fitness courses, especially when it appears that most other fitness training providers do so.
Nearly fifteen years ago Dave and I co-founded Amac. At that time I was a teacher and Dave was a Lecturer of Sports Science having previously worked in various fitness roles (including as a personal trainer). The company was born from our personal dissatisfaction with the resources and training available to those working in the fitness industry. We saw an opportunity to help aspiring fitness professionals through combining our aptitude for teaching and our passion for health and fitness.
Having been students ourselves, we were also very aware of the financial sacrifices so often required to pay for reputable courses. We built Amac on the principle that fitness education should be of the greatest quality possible with minimal cost to the student. I’ll admit that it perhaps wasn’t the most profitable approach as far as business strategies go, but it has certainly been the most rewarding one.
Over the years Amac have worked with different funding sources in order to keep our fitness qualification prices as reasonable as possible. We have worked with the government to deliver ESF (European Social Funding) projects, Train to Gain and Apprenticeships. Until the end of 2014 we accessed exclusive government grants enabling many of our students to get their courses partially funded or for free. Unfortunately, as the economy and government has changed, these funding streams have ceased to exist.
Looking to the future, I fully understand that those wanting to start a new career and qualify in the fitness industry cannot always afford the full upfront course fee. Even Amac’s Easy Payment Plans which are flexible and offer 0% interest and 0% handling fees won’t suit everyone. However, finance credit schemes through the training provider are not a solution. They are cleverly marketed to sound convenient and economical but, when you read the small print, you always end up paying too much money back. Students (often inadvertently) tie themselves into a contract meaning the training provider, or a financial intermediary, ultimately makes money from their debt.
What too many fitness enthusiasts don’t realise is that if they are over 24 it is highly likely they will be eligible for an Advanced Learning Loan through Student Finance England to fund their education. This is the same loan service used by students who go to university. Some individuals will never need to pay this loan back and if they do, repayments are affordable and have low interest rates. Your previous credit history is not taking into consideration during application either.
If you are under 24 it is still highly likely you could source a much more reasonable funding resource on your own as an alternative to a finance credit scheme. There are plenty of cheap personal loans out there, you might even consider joining a credit union. To give you some pointers, it’s worth checking out www.moneysavingexperts.co.uk
In summary, I don’t believe finance credit schemes are very ethical. When you have chosen to progress in your education and perhaps even pursue a new career, the last thing you need is a poor credit rating and unmanageable debt. There are much cheaper loan options around and everyone’s circumstances are different. The easiest option isn’t always the cheapest. Even monthly repayment contracts may have high interest charges or hidden booking fees. Students should think very carefully about the long-term implications of their financial commitments.