RIP maintenance grants. As of 1 August, the government’s maintenance grants for poorer students – worth up to £3,500 a year – have been replaced with additional loans. It’s one more move to keep the poor from education. We asked prospective students and current undergraduates about how the change could affect their studies and plans.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
‘This is a massive disadvantage to people like me.’
Anonymous, 19, Barnsley
I’m starting a computing course at Sheffield Hallam University in September. Without maintenance grants, it will mean that I’m taking out an £8,200 maintenance loan on top of the £9,000 tuition loan, which equates to £51,600 worth of debt for three years’ study. This is obviously a massive issue for people like me because I’m from a disadvantaged background and area. The government has created a divide and limited options for people from poor backgrounds. ‘A lack of money shouldn’t prevent education and personal improvement.’
Poppy Watt, 18, Cornwall
I don’t want to let the scrapping of the grants affect me as I have always aspired to go to university, regardless of the cost (even coming from a family of low income). Hopefully, I’ll start in September. I don’t believe that money – or lack thereof – should prevent education and personal improvement. However, the scrapping of the maintenance grant comes as a blow. Starting adult life in up to £60,000 of debt will be daunting and off-putting to many working-class families, and I think the gap between the rich and poor will continue to grow. ‘The poorest of students will be disproportionately burdened.’
Anonymous, 20, Yorkshire
I’m about to begin my third year of a four-year course at the University of Leeds. Previously, my debt would have been around £45,000 – under the new scheme, that will rise to almost £60,000 before interest. Presuming I earn around £22,000 a year (the starting salary for a teacher), I can expect to pay off about £2,000 a year (again, before interest). This level of debt is crippling. It ensures that the poorest students will be disproportionately burdened, promoting social stagnation instead of social mobility. Is this really a Britain that “works for everyone”? ‘This will probably hurt my final grade.’
Jessica Dixon, 23, Middlesbrough
I will be starting my third year of multimedia journalism at Teesside University in September. I live independently and completely fund myself. Over the past two years, receiving a maintenance grant has taken away the stress of paying rent and bills while studying full-time. Without the grant, I will have to up the hours of my two jobs to survive financially. This will probably hurt the final grade I receive for my degree. Abolition of student maintenance grants ‘will hurt those most in need.’ ‘The system assumes all parents will give children money through university – which is ridiculous.’
Anonymous, 18, Huddersfield.
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I will start university in September. I’m in the lowest income band, so I’ll be receiving the full £8,200 maintenance loan. Because I’m studying a language, I’ll be doing a four-year course, leaving me with at least £60,000 of debt at the end. The fact is, the whole student loan system is in dire need of reform: it assumes that parents will give their children money through university, which is ridiculous. With three siblings and only one working parent, I will be receiving no financial support from my family at all. I feel like a second-class citizen. Everything seems to be telling me that I don’t belong at university. Try Know. ‘The loans are an insult dressed up as an act of generosity.’
Anonymous, 27, Exeter
I’m starting university in London in September, and this change has only strengthened my resolve to leave this country after graduation. The thought of coming out with debt in the region of £80,000 is incredibly daunting. [The replacement of grants with loans is] a farcical insult dressed up as an act of generosity. ‘I’m not sure how my mum will cope with this.’
Daniel, 19, Northampton
My mum cannot afford to support me through university as a single parent, so I will have no choice but to take the £3,500 loan. I have a disability, which means I get exhausted, and it will take all of my energy to get through the course. I’m not sure how my mum will cope with this as she will also lose my child tax and child benefits. If I do go to university, it will have to be near my home as I cannot afford travel and rent. ‘I’m a mature student with children and cannot afford such a sacrifice.’
Anonymous, 34, London
I’ve just finished the first year of a three-year degree in primary education. The £9,000 tuition fees were a huge disincentive – however, I reasoned that it would soon be repaid once I got a job. When I got my first statement, I was alarmed at how much interest it amassed in one year. Now, this. The end of the maintenance grant symbolizes the final nail in the coffin of my university education. I’m a mature student with children and cannot afford such a sacrifice.
I relied on a maintenance grant at university. Its abolition is a distressing defeat.
‘My son’s first year is going to be spent working rather than studying.’
Anonymous, 42, South-West England
My son has just accepted a place on a two-year course. He will now do his first year on a grant. In the second year, he will have to find the funds if he wants to complete the course, which means his first year will be spent working more hours to be able to afford it, rather than getting a good start on his studies. ‘Our generation has already been hit especially hard by tuition fees’
Carmel, 19, Manchester
I’m about to start my second year of a three-year undergraduate course. The change doesn’t affect me right now, but it will affect my two younger sisters if they decide to go to university. I think it is unfair and harsh. We want to acquire degrees, to improve our careers and job opportunities. Our generation has already been hit especially hard by tuition fees, and now this. I feel angry and disheartened.