SR News’ Sophie Dishman spoke to staff and a student at the University of Sunderland who are concerned about the changes. You can listen to it below.
New research by the National Union of Students (NUS) shows parents are concerned the Government’s plan to scrap maintenance grants will discourage their children from applying to universities.
The NUS, with Populous, surveyed adults with children aged 18 and under, where forty-five per cent were from low income backgrounds (with a combined income of £25,000 or less).
Mother-of-three Caroline Cowell, whose job title we cannot name, said: “My kids won’t be able to go to university. Simple as that.
“I just simply won’t be able to afford for them to go if both twins want to go.”
Students in these families are eligible for the maintenance grants the Government is planning to replace with repayable loans. This means students from poorer backgrounds could take on up to £12,000 more debt than they do currently.
Megan Dunn, NUS national president, said: “The government has continually denied the scrapping of maintenance grants would negatively affect students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. This is just not true.
“Our research shows it’s not just students but their whole families who have serious concerns about these changes. Parents, particularly those with lower incomes can see how damaging scrapping grants will be for their children’s futures.
“Students are already facing rising amounts of debt when they graduate, so piling even bigger debts on the shoulders of the poorest students is extremely unfair. Parents are rightly worried about how this debt will affect their children.
“The Government’s proposals risks putting them off university altogether.”
Students are also concerned with the scrapping of the grants.
Magazine journalism student Amie Slack, 18, said: “I come from a single parent family so the grant helps me out a lot.”
Yasmin Magdy, a mass communications student, added: “Without my grant, I couldn’t actually afford to live, never mind go to university.”
Over half of parents surveyed believe the plan to scrap grants undermines the Government’s objective to increase access to university for poorer students.
Journalism student at the University of Sunderland John Harrison said: “To restrict the ability of someone who wants to follow a specific career path that requires a degree simply because they weren’t privileged enough to be born into a family that could support them through education is flat out wrong.”
Rachael McKay, a 21-year-old psychology with criminology student, said: “I think this is absolutely terrible. Student finance is difficult as it is.
“Without the grant, I can’t even afford my accommodation. Education is vital and the Government just don’t seem to care about people trying to make something of their lives and follow their aspirations.”
The NUS findings come as the Government attempted to avoid proper scrutiny via a delegated legislation committee on Thursday, January 14.
MPs debated the issue in the House of Commons yesterday (January 19), when it was decided with a double majority that grants would be scrapped.
NUS has repeatedly criticised the Government’s handling of this proposal, including the failure to properly investigate concerns over the impact of scrapping grants.
Even under the threat of legal action, the Government has refused to fully release their assessment on how the plan will affect students from widening participation backgrounds.
NUS president Ms Dunn added: “We cannot allow proposals that attack lower income families to become a reality.
“If the Government truly cares about widening access, it must urgently halt its plans to shut out poorer students from their education.”