Two-thirds of university entrants in England and Wales who applied for maintenance grants – designed to assist poorer students – were turned down, according to figures from the Student Loans Company (SLC).
Twenty-seven per cent of last year’s 273,000 applicants had received full grants of £1,000 and seven per cent got a lesser amount.
The total spending on grants was a pathetic £83 million.
Dan Waller, National Secretary of the Young Socialists Student Society said: ‘This situation is an absolute disgrace.
‘A grant of £1,000 is an insult to students. It’s about what Mr Blair pays for a meal out.
‘The expenditure on grants illustrates how savage the attack on students has been by the Labour government.
‘The NUS must organise with the trade unions for action. We have to take action to abolish all fees and restore full grants for all.
‘A Labour government that spends a pathetic £83 million on “student grants” should be brought down, and the trade unions should do it.’
Commenting on the SLC report, National Union of Students Vice President Education Julian Nicholds said: ‘This is worrying news, particularly following the recent research from the HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute) which said that there is little chance of the government hitting its 50 per cent target of getting all young people into university by 2010.
‘NUS is also extremely wary of the government announcement today that over half of students will be eligible for a maintenance grant when the new funding system starts in 2006.
‘In actual fact less than a third will be eligible for the full amount so we are yet to see the impact and subsequent difficulties for those who will only receive some support.’
The NUS added that students faced having to take on increased part-time work or even commercial debt to cover living costs.
Laura Walsh, Cambridge University SU President, told News Line: ‘Whilst we support the re-introduction of a grant for students, it is disappointing that out of 273,000 who felt that they needed additional financial support so few have benefitted.
‘With less than a year to go until the introduction of top-up fees, I hope that the government reviews the means-tested thresholds so that more students receive the funding they deserve and are not deterred from Higher Education because of lack of money or fear of debt.’
Sussex student Will Fincher said: ‘Even the way they assess the student loans is a muddle.
‘It’s not obvious how they make their assessments or if they are consistent.
‘A £1,000 grant is better than nothing but it is not going to meet many costs.
‘£15,000 is a ridiculous parents qualifying salary, at least they should have set it at an average living wage.
‘Grants should be restored in full for everyone, without means testing.’
According to the Student Loans Company, the number of higher education entrants receiving the full £1,000 for this year was 74,000, while 18,000 got a partial grant and 181,000 applicants were unsuccessful.
The Higher Education Grant was introduced last year to help with living costs.
Grants are available on a sliding scale for students whose household income is less than £21,185 a year.
The maximum grant is only available for those whose families make £15,200 or less.