Support the grant cuts? Wake up to your own privilege
We have a right to be angry about cuts to maintenance grants.
Anyone who says otherwise is blinded by their own privilege.
In case you haven’t heard, the government is stopping all maintenance grants from 2016. They will be replaced by loans of up to £8200, a much bigger sum of cash than is currently available through a combined maintenance loan and grant.
Surely this is good news – more disposable income for poorer students?
Harry Baldwin seems to think so, as evidenced in his recent article attacking CUSU and the student left for “whinging lefty rants” criticising the cuts and claiming that the new system of loans is “intrinsically more progressive” than the current combined grant and loan.
He goes on to claim that expressing anger at the governments’ decisions is more damaging to access than the cuts themselves.
Not only is he patronising, but he’s wrong on so many levels.
I agree that we must be very cautious not to put off people hesitating about going to university. If you’re passionate about your subject, go. If you’ve got the grades, go. The increased job prospects and life chances that it offers far outweigh the costs.
But you have a right to be angry. I have a right to be angry. And the government needs to listen to us.
Whether or not you voted for them – and I certain didn’t – they are still our representatives and we have to hold them accountable. George Osborne better start giving a damn. He’s a millionaire who didn’t pay a penny in tuition, telling students on grants that we don’t deserve the tiny amount of government investment that we already receive.
It’s easy for Harry to accuse the left of being “self-righteous” and “sanctimonious”, but he and a lot of those on the right are callous and blinded by their own privilege.
Add to that £24,600 of maintenance repayments, £27,000 of tuition loans, and you already have debts exceeding £50,000. Plus interest. On top of this, the government have also given unspecified “elite universities” the go ahead to increase their tuition fees.
Whilst this may not seem like a big deal to Harry or the Tory cabinet, to most people it’s a pretty hefty amount.
It’s fine though – you only start repaying your loan if you’re earning above £21,000. Still poor? Congratulations.
The right’s response has been shockingly nonchalant – a shrug of the shoulders and a “get on your bike” attitude. Juggle as many jobs as necessary with a full time degree to stave off debt, or lower your ambitions, forget university and get a job that pays the bills.
Working part time in Primark or bar tending over the summer is great, but paid employment shouldn’t take priority over our studies. That’s why we need grants and loans.
Cuts won’t affect the pampered spawn of the bourgeoisie, whose parents already fund them through higher education and beyond. Little Hugo and Ottoline will leave university with a minimum of debts, if any.
It’s students from the absolute poorest families, or without parents altogether, who’ll be hit. And that is not ok.
Coming to university in the first place is often a huge step. You can’t separate where people are going from where they come from. One tends to dictate the other, no matter how meritocratic Harry likes to think that our society is.
For independent students like me, there are the added difficulties that come with the absence of a parental nest to return to. Accommodation contracts must cover holidays as well as term time, and you can’t squat indefinitely at you mum and dad’s in the rocky jobless period post-graduation.
I’m not claiming that the current system is perfect. It isn’t. My combined grant and loan doesn’t even cover my rent. Students should get jobs during holidays, and ultimately, we need more apprenticeships and viable alternatives to university. Maintenance loans should be increased – but without cutting grants.
Because what is a grant?
Ultimately, a very small amount of money on a national scale, and a very big amount on a personal one.
But it’s more than that. It shows that the government value your potential and your education enough to invest in you; that they back you to do well.
Young people shouldn’t have everything handed to them on a plate – but a maintenance grant hands a small amount to people who’ve often never had anything given to them at all.
Attacking the opposition for opposing is lazy and passes the buck, demonizing those affected by and protesting against the cuts rather than those instigating them. Are we just meant to shut up and give in without a fuss? Because obviously, the blame lies solely with us and our “scaremongering” – it’s nothing to do with over £50,000+ of student debt.
Please, apply to university. Take this as a challenge to do the best that you possibly can, regardless of financial obstacles.
But be angry, be loud, and make the government listen. Because right now, they are failing our youth.