By Shannon Bartholomew – Reporter
With the release of the first full conservative government budget since 1996, there have been many unpopular measures taken by this government in order to ensure a budget surplus within the UK. The most talked about new measure among students is unsurprisingly the abolition of the maintenance grant in favour of a new loan.
Currently the highest amount a student is entitled to is a combined loan and grant of £7,249 (Student Finance, England) a year, with £3,387 of that being a grant. The new budget has proposed getting rid of the grant and increasing the available loan to £8,200 from the academic year 2016-17.
The total loan comes in just shy of £1,000 more than what a student from a lower income family is currently entitled to. For the poorest of students, the extra money that they will be entitled to will go a long way in improving their student life. For example, the student will be able to focus more on their studies and less on work, as they will now be able to afford to not have to work as much as they currently do in order to supplement their studies.
Unavoidably, more loan does equal more debt. However, this should not deter students from university, as you will still not have to pay this back until you are earning over the £21,000 a year threshold. After this, you pay back your student loan in exactly the same method which students have been doing for the past few years, in small fair payments.
Not only does it benefit the student, but it also benefits the greater society, something that students should really be thinking about for when they leave university. The grant currently cost the tax payer £1.57bn a year – an amount that is no longer sustainable in our current economic climate and would be better served in other areas of our society.
Over the years, and even through the rise of tuition fees from £6,000 a year to £9,000 in 2012, we have seen a surge in people from low income backgrounds applying for university, meaning more and more money being payed out as grants.
Ultimately, the maintenance grants given to students are no longer sustainable and it needs to be tackled, otherwise our universities will become underfunded and education standards will drop due to the government simply not being able to afford to fund the universities.