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Why we must fight to stop grants for the poorest being cut

Friday 12-06-2015 - 16:08

Many of you will have seen the reports on the BBC, or on Newsnight, that the government is considering cutting or even abolishing altogether the maintenance grants in England. As with the Education Maintenance Allowance in the last Parliament, support for the most vulnerable will be the victim of ideological cuts arising from reckless manifesto promises and regardless of the consequences.

We will be vigorously opposing any such cuts, should they be announced – but we don’t need to wait for an announcement to make the argument that this would be a huge mistake. As always, our greatest chance of success comes when the student movement works together – and you can take action now:

1. Tweet at, write to or meet your local MP(s) and ask them to do all they can to defend the grant – note this will affect English-domiciled student studying in the nations

2. Encourage your students to do the same, and to contact their home MPs during the summer

3. Discuss the potential cuts with your Vice Chancellor and ask them to speak out against any cuts – them that UUK argued against lowering fees because more should be spent on financial aid for the poorest students

4. Start to collect evidence or case studies that may help in any future campaign

NUS will be campaigning and lobbying at a national level and President elect Megan Dunn will be meeting with the Secretary of State in the near future to argue for the student support budget to be protected and extended.

Background

It’s not a surprise that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) are considering: the grants budget was around £1.59bn in 2013/14, and with the Department expected to find £450m of savings this year, the pressure to make savings from the grants budget will be intense. Even so, it is obvious this would be a regressive and short-sighted choice, driven by ideology rather than the interests of the country, let alone of individual students. Cutting this support will affect the poorest students: the maximum grant is paid to those with household incomes of less than £25,000 per year. It will jeopardise access – research shows that a £1,000 increase in grants meant a 3.95% increase in participation. It will create inequalities: we know the poorest students are more likely to live at home; for some this is the right decision, but if more feel forced to do so for financial reasons this could restrict choice of subject or institution. Even if the cut in the grant is offset by higher loans it will simply mean more debt for the poorest, who we know are more likely to be deterred by debt, and a student loan system that is even more expensive.

As we find out more, we'll make sure we provide you with further analysis, information and support, as well as details of any national actions. In the meantime if you have any questions do get in touch.

 

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