From today students in England from low income families will no longer be able to apply for maintenance grants. This change, announced in former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s July 2015 budget, means that the full grant of £3,387 per year, previously available to students from families with an annual income of £25,000 or less, will now only be available as a loan.
The loan will be repaid in the same way as tuition fees and maintenance loans; at the end of the student’s undergraduate course when they are earning more than £21,000.
The decision has divided opinion. The NUS has described the decision as ‘disgraceful’, condemning the fact that the affected students are likely to graduate with more debt. It has also been suggested that the move could effect future university applications.
This news comes in the wake of proposed tuition fee increases for the 2016/17 academic year and plans to scrap bursaries for nursing and midwifery courses, as well as the report that for many graduates debt payments will cancel out the benefit of higher earnings.
Mr Osborne justified his decision by stating that there was a “basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them”. The decision has also been supported by some students who argued that the grants were unfair because the fact that a student could be from a higher earning household did not necessarily mean they were personally better off financially than a student from a lower income background.
While supported by some, the decision will inevitably come as further unwelcome news for many students. It remains to be seen if the move will affect the number of future university applications.