In last week’s Budget, it was announced that maintenance grants for students will be cut and converted in to loans. This new development sends a disturbing message to less privileged students that there isn’t space for them at university.
Applying for university can be a very stressful time and one of the factors that worries young people is money. The ridiculously high university fees are a daunting prospect to begin with, and then you have the costs of accommodation, course books, food, socialising and so on to worry about. If you have never lived independently before this all seems pretty freaky and, if on top of that, you don’t have parents with a large disposable income to help you out, then the cost of university becomes intimidating and discouraging. And then fast forward to the middle of first year, if your money is getting tight it will be very stressful, perhaps to the point that it affects your studies, social life and even your mental health. Life changes are one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life so the last thing nervous freshers need are money troubles.
This is why maintenance grants are so crucial. Maintenance grants are not only relied on by many students to feel financially secure, but they also serve to show poorer potential university students that they too will be catered for at university, and they too are allowed to have a full university experience. The reality for many potential uni students is that, without a maintenance grant, they won’t be able to have an exciting, fun-filled university experience that allows them to make the most of the opportunities available. Yes, they will have an extended loan, but a bigger loan means bigger debt and students are all too aware of this already. Even if they don’t have to pay it back, why should poorer students have to owe the government more? It’s more about the message the debt portrays rather than the money itself. Indeed, most of the debt won’t get paid back, meaning it won’t make the government more money. It will simply serve to burden poorer students.
Everyone has the right to be made welcome at university and cutting maintenance grants will definitely put poorer students off going to university. Many will rightly feel it is unfair that they won’t have a grant to help them cover their living costs, but instead a larger loan to pay back, simply because they come from a low income family. The grant currently serves to show poorer students that they are being catered for at university, and they are just as entitled to go to university as anyone else.
Currently there is a degree of uncertainty about whether the plans to cut grants will actually go ahead. Equally, some may argue that it does not matter because the loan system is to be extended. But, regardless of this, potential university students seeing headlines such as ‘Budget 2015: Maintenance grants for poorer students ‘to be scrapped’ in next round of cuts’ is extremely disheartening, and will inevitably make less privileged, poorer young people feel negative about university.