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Half of young people reconsider applying to university as maintenance grants are scrapped

Almost a third believe the changes favour students from rich backgrounds, while 1 in 4 say they feel young people have been 'let down by the Government'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Monday 15 August 2016 12:22 BST
Students have staged several protest marches against the rising cost of university education in recent years
Students have staged several protest marches against the rising cost of university education in recent years (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Just over half of young people are reconsidering applying to university in the wake of the recent scrapping of maintenance grants, a new survey has found.

As the grant-to-loan change - which is set to affect half a million of England’s poorest students - continues to to be criticised by students and the wider higher education sector, the survey has also found 90 per cent of respondents believe the changes restrict opportunities for young people.

Close to a third, 29 per cent, believe the changes favour students from rich backgrounds, while one in four say they feel young people have been “let down by the Government.”

Under the changes - which came into effect on 1 August - students will have to take out a loan to cover living costs while studying, whereas, in previous years, students from families with a household income of £25,000 or less were entitled to a grant of £3,387 per year. This grant then decreased as the family’s income increased and came to an end when a household earned more than £42,620.

Now, though, those students who live away from home outside of London will receive a higher loan amount of up to £8,200, while those in the capital will get up to £10,702.

This will then all have to be repaid under the same terms as existing loans once a graduate earns more than £21,000 per year.

The Government had been heavily criticised earlier this year for “frighteningly and undemocratically” pushing the change through a small committee most people had never heard of, consisting of just 18 MPs and at a debate which lasted just 90 minutes.

Richard Apletree, managing director at giffgaff Money - which carried out the survey* - described how young people now feel their chances of a better future are being “pushed away” with the removal of university grants acting as “just one element.”

He said: “The results suggest a feeling that students from wealthier backgrounds are being catered to and the voices of those from lower incomes are ignored. It’s disheartening to hear aspirational, young people from lower financial backgrounds feel certain experiences or life goals may be out of reach due to a lack of support.”

Sorana Vieru, National Union of Students vice president, also strongly opposed the changes. She said the union “condemns” the Government’s move to scrap maintenance grants, which will have “a huge impact” on 500,000 students. She continued: “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.

“In just one year, the Government has scrapped maintenance grants, NHS bursaries, cut the Disabled Students' Allowance to the bone, changed loan repayment terms to make graduates pay back their loans faster, and is now planning a further rise in tuition fees. We urgently need to review this unsustainable funding system which will force students into a lifetime of debt.”

*Results gathered from a poll of 2,275 young people aged between 16 and 21

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