Why the maintenance grant-to-loan change can actually be seen as a positive

'Although creating a larger amount of debt to repay, the loan does help students in the short-term, enabling them to more realistically afford the price of university'

Billie Andersson
Tuesday 13 September 2016 10:44
Students have staged several protest marches against the rising cost of university fees in recent years
Students have staged several protest marches against the rising cost of university fees in recent years

With exam results day long gone and the new academic year upon us, the Government’s decision to scrap maintenance grants for poorer students is having a damaging effect. And, as many young people are feeling the nerves of heading off to university, the extra worry on already strained students is taking its toll.

While many applied for university when still undecided on whether to go or not, this recent retraction of extra government funding for those from lower-class backgrounds could just be what stops students from progressing onto higher education in future years.

However, although seen as an initial negative, the withdrawal of the maintenance grant - seen to have been retracted in order to cut back on government expenditure - can also be seen as an eventual positive - believe it or not. With the cut allowing the Government to maintain the ‘no cap’ on student numbers at university, more of the country’s younger generation is being presented with the chance of a place in higher education. And, in a society in which it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to find jobs, a university degree has become significantly more essential than it was 20 years ago - making more availability a top priority.

As the media encompasses the story, relaying the views of the many politicians and public figures that disagree with the cut, little are voicing the positives of the change. As an unchangeable move that is inevitably going to affect students starting university this year, the disagreeing retaliators need to be replaced by logical thinkers. And it is here we can comprehend it: it’s not all negative.

With a key downfall of the situation being the lack of education on the topic of repaying loans, peace of mind can still come to students with the idea that, with an increase of the amount they are borrowing, does not come an increase of the rate at which it is expected to be paid back at. As stated by Ucas, students will still not begin paying any loans back until the April four years their first year’s senior, and only after they begin to earn over £21,000. Even then at a mere £7 per month on the lowest income you are subject to repayment at, this increase of debt will not affect you any more so in terms of how steeply you are paying it back at.

Additionally through the continuation of the 30 year cut-off date, students will not have their debt looming over their heads for any longer than in previous years. Therefore, with the average graduate earning £6,000 a year more than those without a degree - according to graduate labour market statistics of 2015 - students will still be better off financially than those with a lack of a higher education, even with this increase of student debt post-graduation.

As well as this, the short-term plan is made much more appealing than that of the long-term one. With accommodation costs having been booming over the last ten years - rising a substantial 97 per cent, according to statistics from the National Union of Students - any extra money students can place their hands on should be desperately sought after and willingly accepted. With the new maintenance loan scheme focusing on giving students on the lowest income £8,200 a year, we can see a rise of nearly £800 in relation to how much students obtained in previous years. And with the average cost of university accommodation rising to an average of £4,834 a year, any extra money - no matter how small - really can go the extra mile. Consequently, although creating a larger amount of debt to repay, the loan does help students in the short-term, enabling them to more realistically afford the price of university.

Therefore, with all the negative comments swarming the news and encompassing society, students are encouraged to take a deep breath and realise it is not all doom and gloom with more debt chasing after them. University is considered both the best years of your life as well as quickly becoming a near essential asset for a future career - and whilst the expectations of how quickly and how steeply you pay back your student loans remain unaffected, don’t let the change in government funding affect the decision of going on to study in higher education.

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