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The impact of #CutTheCosts: maintenance grants and LGBTQIA+ students

Wednesday 19-08-2015 - 10:58

During the reading of the Budget on July 8 George Osbourne announced that maintenance grants for university students would be abolished and instead converted to loans.

That’s why NUS is asking students and students’ unions to lobby their MPs on Friday 18 September and demand that maintenance grants are not scrapped.

There’s rightly been a focus on how these proposals seriously affect students from low income family backgrounds, but the damage goes much further than that.

Under the current Student Finance system, students who experience estrangement from their families and thus have no financial support to access Higher Education can apply for a full maintenance grant to support them during their studies.  

LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to face estrangement from their families than their heterosexual peers, meaning this shift from maintenance grants to loans will hit students in the NUS LGBT+ campaign the hardest. Many LGBTQIA+ students and young people are forced to go back into the ‘closet’ in order to maintain financial support from their family. Others are kicked out of their family home with all financial support removed just for being for being out about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

A recent research study ‘Freshers’ to Finals’ [1] recorded the following statements from current LGBTQIA+ students:

“Had a friend come out as lesbian in college a few months before leaving for uni... [she was told] she would be cut off financially, so had to go back ‘in’ the ‘closet’” (Participant, group 1)

“Chucked out by my parents, and if I didn’t have a well-paying job I would be homeless” (Participant, group 1)

“Last year because I was going to uni and my parents weren’t OK [about my identity] I thought... I’m not going to be able to go” (Participant, group 3).

Additionally, a survey carried out by NUS, Beyond the Straight and Narrow, found that LGB+ students are more likely to be in debt, and in higher amounts of debt, than their heterosexual counterparts. Respondents in our research were also more than twice as likely as heterosexual students to have taken on high-risk debt such as payday loans. [2]

NUS LGBT+ believes that this is not only an attack on those most vulnerable in society but a direct attack on LGBTQIA+ students and their ability to access Higher Education. LGBTQIA+ young people are already identified as having a higher risk of experiencing suicidal feelingsself-harmdrug or alcohol misuse and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and homelessness and the loss of maintenance grants will only go to further the cycle of deprivation that LGBTQIA+ young people suffer from.  

George Osbourne’s logic behind his decision to scrap students’ grants is that it’s time for young people to ‘earn or learn’.  However, this fails to acknowledge the lack of financial and family support and privilege some students just do not have, especially some LGBTQIA+ young people.

Education is a basic human right and should be accessible to all regardless of their background and if this government can’t fight for the most basic rights for those most vulnerable in society then what hope to the rest of us have?

That’s why NUS LGBT+ supports #CutTheCosts and why you should too.

Find out more about #CutThe Costs here http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/winning-for-students/articles/ask-your-mp-to-cutthecosts-not-maintenance-grants

Sign up to the facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/events/511832625648625/

[1] http://www.shu.ac.uk/_assets/pdf/freshers-to-finals-end-report.pdf

[2] Beyond the Straight and Narrow

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