GRANTS were abolished yesterday leaving hundreds of thousands of poorer students with a stark choice: either spend the rest of your life in debt, or drop out of education completely.
Until yesterday students living away from home, whose families take home less than £42,620 a year, were eligible to apply for the grant to help contribute to their living costs and student rent.
The size of the grant increased as the annual earnings decreased – reaching a maximum of £3,387 if their household income was below £25,000. This system has now been scrapped. Last week parliament removed the £9,000 cap on fees, linking them instead to inflation – meaning that immediately they go up to £9,250 and are set to continuously rise.
Grants are now replaced by loans, so that on top of the £9,250 tuition fee loan, students are now forced to take out a further £7,000 maintenance allowance loan – a total of £16,500.
This means that after a three-year course a student can now expect to be in as much as £49,500 worth of debt, or much more if inflation rises. NUS vice president Sorana Vieru slammed the scheme as ‘disgraceful’.
She said: ‘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.’
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Our members want to teach the best and brightest students from all walks of life. Replacing these grants with loans has increased student and national debt and cost everyone more in the long run. Education should be publicly funded and the student finance system is in urgent need of reform – without it, student debt levels will only continue to rise.’
NUS and the University and College Union (UCU) have announced plans for a national demonstration in central London on Saturday 19 November. The demonstration ‘United For Education’ will represent a rallying call for free, accessible and quality further and higher education across the UK, and to demand an end to the marketisation of university and college education.
Joshua Ogunleye, National Secretary of the Young Socialists told News Line: ‘It is not grants that must be scrapped, it is tuition fees that must be scrapped. Free education must be restored and a full living non-repayable grant awarded to each and every student. The entire working class, if they are to see a future for the next generation of youth, must come out on strike together to bring this government down.’