Theresa May’s new higher education shake up has left new students, those applying this September, without the option to apply for grants.
Student grants, worth up to £3387, were previously given to those whose families had an annual income of £25,000 or less. The money was intended for students to buy food, transportation, clothes and study supplies.
The move, which was first announced July 2015 by George Osbourne, is to change grants into loans. According to Osbourne there was a “basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them.”
Over half a million students receive a maintenance grant which in total is worth £1.57bn a year.
However, the decision has received harsh criticism with claims that the move would bar individuals of lower income backgrounds from applying for higher education. The National Union of Students has called the change ‘disgraceful.’
Sorana Vieru, NUS vice-president, told BBC Breakfast “It’s a disgraceful change that basically punishes poorer students simply for being poor, so they have to take a bigger loan than those students from privileged backgrounds.
“It could put off students from underprivileged backgrounds from applying, who might not understand how the loan system works, or are very debt-averse.
“We also know that mature students are way more debt-averse than younger students and BME [black and minority ethnic] students perceive student debt on a par with commercial debt.”
Last year, Osbourne claimed that the maintenance loan would be increased to £8,200, the highest amount ever given.
The Office of Fair Access to higher education is to monitor the changes the scheme will bring.