SHAUN COOK argues that it was right for EMA to be scrapped.
I agree with the coalition Government that EMA should be scrapped.
We are told that EMA exists in order to provide funding for disadvantaged students who genuinely want to receive a college education but are unable to pay for essential things such as books, stationery and travel. Undeniably, there exists a population of those receiving EMA who use it for exactly that, and without it they could never go to college.
But, there are many other people who go to college to receive EMA and never consider using it for college related expenses. This is where the EMA system falls short – it is too generally defined.
There are some people for whom remaining within the education system is not the best option. There are many people who go to college for two or three years and are funded by EMA, only to come out with a fail or a very low grade in some arbitrary BTEC or A levels which do not add any value to their CVs in the long run.
EMA only encourages people to attend lectures or classes. What benefit can we really say is being drawn from that? The money can provide an incentive, but not true motivation.
But, 70% of students in the poorest areas would drop out of college without the funding. So, what should we have instead?
A more targeted support for those who would fall into this category and will benefit from further education.
The Government currently spends £560 million per year on EMA and contributes a further £26 million to discretionary funding for colleges to give to students. The money which is currently being put into EMA should in part be used to increase this pot of discretionary funding. Tutors and support staff are clearly better suited to target the correct people than some arbitrary income boundary.
The remaining money should be spent on apprenticeships and entry-level employment – an area of this whole debate, which appears to have been glossed over. There is a common misconception in the media that you can either go to college, or fail. Funding incentive schemes for small businesses would create genuine opportunities for school leavers, and for the country, our next generation of skilled workers, who need to be taught on the job rather than in the classroom.
EMA was supposed to allow young people to have the freedom to go to college; however its overt gratuitousness has proven to be counter-productive. Scrapping it isn’t outrageous, it’s simply required.