Goodbye to grants: Maintenance handouts set to be scrapped
Now you’ll have to pay back your living grant
Our student grants have been axed and replaced with loans we have to pay back, it has been announced today.
Precious grants, worth up to £3,387 per year, will need to be paid in full after graduation from 2016-17.
Maintenance payments have previously been free, and an essential part of covering rent and living costs for students from poorer backgrounds.
Despite this, they’re burning a hole in the Business Department’s pocket – costing a staggering £1.6 billion per year.
Grants are currently only available for students with a family income of up to £42,620 per year.
The government may still decide to keep them for those with a family income of under £25,000 – who are currently able to get the maximum grant.
This has now been increased to £8,200.
In the budget speech, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: “Universities are one of jewels in crown of British economy.”
“When we reformed in the last parliament, we were told it would put people from low income backgrounds off from going, but now we see a record number of these students applying.
“But we can’t afford to this unless we tackle cost of maintenance grants. If don’t tackle this, our unis will become underfunded.”
But the University and College Union general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Maintenance grants are crucial for engaging students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are already daunted by cripplingly high tuition fee debt.
“Increasing the debt burden on students will act as a disincentive to participation, and it does not make sense for the taxpayer either as the extra loan amount is unlikely to be repaid in full.
“Putting the onus on individual institutions to take the lead on widening participation will lead to greater disparities in terms of access and a more confusing system for students to navigate.
“The level of financial support available should not be the deciding factor for a student choosing where to study.
“Any further increase in the cost of tuition fees, as proposed by the chancellor, risks putting off many of those who would benefit most from university.”
In 2013 the plans to take away our grants were originally proposed, but opposition from the Liberal Democrats kept the cash in our pocket.
But with government departments facing cuts of around 15 per cent over the next three years, the Business Secretary Sajid Javid wants to slash £2.2 billion.
Ministers are expected to stress it is the responsibility of universities to improve access for poorer students.
And those from families claiming income support or with other special circumstances are still expected to get funding.
National Union of Students vice president Megan Dunn said cutting maintenance grants would be “detrimental” to poorer students and could even stop people from applying for university.
She said: “We know that our poorest students are the most likely to be deterred by debt, but it could also affect where students choose to live and which courses to take.
“It will mean staying at home instead of moving into halls or shared accommodation and applying for shorter courses to reduce costs.
“If grants are cut, it could mean the cost of student loans will go up for everyone or repayment conditions will get tougher than they already are.
“This is yet another unreasonable barrier to accessing higher education.”
Mark Leach, policy expert from the education blog Wonkhe.com told the BBC: “I think it’s increasingly likely to happen but in the long run it can’t be good for universities or graduates because it adds to the cost of the overall system.
“The loan book, and future chancellors of the exchequer could come back to the universities and come back to graduates and say, ‘we’re going to need to take more money back to pay for the system’.”