How Scrapping Maintenance Grants Will Put Poorest Students Into Even More Debt
Everything you need to know about how it’ll affect you in 3 minutes.
As of right now, university students from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds will no longer receive maintenance grants to help them with living costs during uni.
Over 500,000 students usually receive the grant, but will now have to apply for a loan to fund their studies instead.
If you’ve been a little out of the loop and are wondering what the big deal about this change is, don’t worry. Here are the basics that will bring you right up to date in three minutes flat.
How the old maintenance grant system worked:
Under the old system, grants to cover living costs are available to students from families with incomes of £25,000 or less. A grant could’ve been up to £3,387 a year; decreasing as household salaries increase. As it was a grant, students were not required to pay back any of the money.
Households with a combined salary of over £42,620 were not entitled to a grant.
But why should people get maintenance grants in the first place?
If a student comes from a low-income family, their parents/caregivers might be unable to spare extra cash to help support with basic living costs.
This is where the maintenance grant provided an essential extra layer of support.
But even if a student received the maximum £3,387 a year, this grant still wasn’t enough to cover all of their living costs. A lot of students would also take out a maintenance loan, which is smaller than the loans introduced today, to get by.
Unfortunately, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds will now have to take out a much larger maintenance loan. This means they will leave uni with even more debt to put on top of the tens of thousands of pounds they owe in tuition fees anyway. Tuition fees are also set to rise in the future, but that’s a story for another time.
How the new maintenance loan system will work:
As George Osborne (the then chancellor) announced back in January, Students will now be entitled to £8,200, but unlike the grant, this will have to be repaid once the graduate is earning more than £21,000 a year.
What are people saying about this?
NUS vice-president Sorana Vieru told BBC Breakfast: "It's a disgraceful change that basically punishes poorer students simply for being poor, so they have to take a bigger loan than those students from privileged backgrounds.
"It could put off students from underprivileged backgrounds from applying, who might not understand how the loan system works, or are very debt-averse.
"We also know that mature students are way more debt-averse than younger students and BME [black and minority ethnic] students perceive student debt on a par with commercial debt."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also said [when George Osborne announced the scrapping of maintenance grants]: “removing that vital help will hurt those who need it most. Plans to cut maintenance grants are wrong and we will fight these plans tooth and nail. Social mobility is a real priority and these changes threaten to further entrench inequality.”
On the other hand, the former Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson (brother to our floppy-haired Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson), said the maintenance grant change: "helps balance the need to ensure that affordability is not a barrier to higher education.”
It’s difficult to believe Jo Johnson, or the government, when they say that scrapping maintenance grants will not negatively affect students.
By turning the grants into a loan, the poorest students will now leave university with even more debt than those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.
Seems unfair, doesn’t it?
What does it say about our society when we don’t take care of the least fortunate? It’s possible that students from less fortunate backgrounds considering university could be put off by the continually rising cost of higher education. This is, of course, very disappointing.