Proposals have been made by ministers to phase out educational grants for students from low income households, in order to find savings ahead of the Budget. Currently, grants are worth up to £3,387 a year for students from households with an income of £25,000 or less, while levels of financial support decreases in increments to students from household incomes of up to £42,000.
It was bad enough that higher education fees were allowed, under the coalition government, to treble in 2010, but the future is looking bleak for less well off students to attain higher education if they receive no financial support towards their studies. The prospect of incurring debt so early on in life will only put people off from applying to universities.
Proposals are inevitable
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) believes that the move is inevitable as he told Newsnight: “BIS is one of the departments that no political party promised to protect, and this is one of the very big items in BIS's budget, so I do think it's likely to happen, yes.” Mr Hillman also believes that this move “is better than reducing the number of university places.”
Repayment conditions will get tougher
Megan Dunn, vice president of National Union of Students holds a different view to this move as 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.” She added: “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.”
Increasing national debt
Although removing grants completely and converting a portion of grants to loans will save around £2bn over three years, the likelihood is that the increase in student loans will increase the national debt and eventually cost the taxpayer in the long term.
Taking away from future generations
Student Wesley Cripps, who received a maintenance grant to complete his degree at Buckinghamshire New University, said to Newsnight: “I feel really proud, and I think taking away the maintenance grant could potentially take away that opportunity from future generations of people like me, that are sitting here today gleaming with pride.”