There’s a disparity between the minimum and maximum student loan amounts - and the Government needs to closely examine this

'It seems odd that kids who come from high income families should be left penniless'

Douglas Murdoch
Tuesday 12 January 2016 17:10
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In recent years, as fees have continued to rise, affording university has become increasingly challenging. In 2006, students were expected to pay £3,000 a year, and by 2012, that cost had tripled. It’s not an easy feat to pay these costs, but as students, prior to entering the working world, they have very little direct effect on our lives.

Yet the key issue being forgotten is maintenance loans. It’s these loans, not those that we don’t see until later, that determine whether a student will be able to get a higher education or not - and it’s what the Government seems to be missing.

With the way the maintenance loan structure currently works, there is about a £3,700 gap between what students receiving the minimum loan receive, and what is received by those on the maximum. I come from a ‘high income’ family, and my loan doesn’t even cover my accommodation costs. The Government, overall, was of very little help to me.

As a student receiving the minimum loan, I receive £3,731 annually. This is 50 per cent of what those receiving the maximum loan get. It doesn’t sound that little, but when you’re living in the cheapest single-room accommodation your university has to offer - at £114 a week - three-and-a-half grand really doesn’t stretch very far.

I worked as hard as I could upon discovering my circumstances; I saved up £1,800, but this (plus my student loan) barely covered my rent. This is where my dad came in. He volunteered to pay the difference between my loan and my rent, as long as I paid for everything else i.e. food, books, and social life. I didn’t want to be one of those students where Daddy pays for everything, but what other option did I have?

My position is by no means tragic, and I’m not trying to paint it so. My parents can help me out. It dents my pride that I need them to, but they are there if times get desperate. But what if my parents didn’t support me financially? Just because they earn a certain amount doesn’t, by any means, give them an obligation to hand out cash to their kid when they start university, let alone the ability to necessarily do so.

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I have siblings, and the Government doesn’t take into account how many thousands of pounds my parents will have to fork out just to see each of us through higher education. I’m lucky, however, that my parents can currently afford to put me through university. Thousands of pounds later, though, who’s to say my youngest sibling will be as fortunate?

It seems odd that kids who come from high income families should be left penniless when, for the first time in their lives, they can actually no longer rely on that high income that led to their current circumstances in the first place. It is, for many, the first opportunity to be truly independent, yet this is impossible when their family’s earnings - of which they have never had any control over - means they cannot achieve any kind of financial stability on their own.

In a world where we’re trying to raise independent young adults who aren’t reliant on Mummy and Daddy’s money, we’re offering no support to allow them to take this step. More so, we’re actually actively restricting them. This is not to say all students should be granted the same level of financial support, just that the disparity between the minimum and maximum loan should be more closely examined.

The Government has the outlines of a strong concept, they definitely do, but it needs a closer look - or we risk kids already marked in the “safe zone” losing out on their chance for an education we should all be entitled to.

Douglas Murdoch is currently a second-year student studying creative writing and English literature at Bath Spa University

Twitter: @DSHMurdoch

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