As of last Monday, students starting university courses in England will no longer be able to receive maintenance grants.
The change, announced in 2015 by Chancellor George Osborne, condemns poorer students into a ‘lifetime of debt’, according to the NUS, with the move deemed as ‘disgraceful’.
The vice-president of the NUS, Sorana Vieru, says that the move: “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 students perceive student debt on a par with commercial debt.”
The scrapping of grants means that students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less who used to receive a full grant of £3,387 per year can now only get that money as a loan.
This results in around 500,000 of England’s poorest students being saddled with higher levels of debt, particularly now that tuition fee increases have also been announced. Royal Holloway was one of the first universities to announce increases in its fees (subject to government confirmation), with the cost for undergraduate students in 2017 at £9,250 per year, an almost 3% increase from the £9,000 cap imposed by the coalition government in 2012.
The change comes the day after a new study released by the Intergenerational Foundation claimed that student debt payments wipe out the benefit of higher earnings for most graduates.
Recent graduate Max Lawson said: “The scrapping of maintenance grants signals yet another step by the government towards ensuring that higher education is a right reserved only for those families who are able to afford it. The scrapping of grants combined with the raising of tuition fees will likely force potential future students from working class families to reconsider going to university. Education is a human right”.
Upon announcing the changes, Osborne defended the announcement, saying there was a “basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them.”