NUS Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to reverse the planned £11m cut to FE student support.
Current student support is £95.6m for FE students (2011/12), however it has emerged that current Scottish Government plans will see student support fall to £84.2m in 2012/13 (see note 1).
Every SNP candidate made a personal pledge to 'improve student support' at the last election and the SNP manifesto promised to protect college bursary budgets throughout the parliament (see note 2). The SNP also made explicit pledges during the election campaign (see note 3).
Robin Parker, President of NUS Scotland, said: "Over 63,000 emails have been sent to MSPs from students, staff and members of the community through NUS Scotland's Our Future, Our Fight campaign, asking the Parliament to protect colleges and fight cuts to college student support. This is one of the biggest campaigns we've ever done, showing the huge strength of feeling on this issue across Scotland.
"The Scottish Government's plans to cut £11m out of the college student support budget must be reversed. College bursaries are a vital lifeline for tens of thousands of students across Scotland. Cuts to college student support are therefore cuts to some of the poorest people in the poorest communities in Scotland.
"Cuts to financial help to the poorest students could threaten to undermine efforts to tackle youth unemployment in Scotland. If we don't get the financial help people need to study then we'll consign many more young people to benefits, whether through drop out or through people not being able to study at all in the first place. This £11m a year cut to student support is not only wrong in itself, it could also threaten to undermine the Scottish Government's new £10m a year Youth Employment Fund.
"As we approach the budget vote in the Scottish Parliament, we must see these proposed cuts to student support reversed, to ensure that money is being put back to help the poorest college students to study and to avoid unemployment.
"Otherwise, we risk a youth unemployment merry-go-round with college cuts undermining the government's own efforts to tackle youth unemployment with young people not having the financial support to study, but at the same time not having the skills for work."
1) College bursaries are received by 20 year olds and over studying full time at colleges in Scotland. They are the only financial help these students can get and are available to only the poorest students in Scotland. Over 50,000 students received a college bursary last year.
2) The college bursary budget was increased to £95.6m at the last budget and the SNP manifesto pledged to protect it at this level throughout the parliament stating (p17): "In the most recent Scottish Budget we provided an additional £15 million for college bursaries and funding to support 1,200 additional college places.
We are committed to protecting existing students’ living costs through our budget for 2011-12. For the future, we will protect the advances already made. We will continue with increased support for college bursaries, allowing us to provide 50,000 a year for each of the next five years."
3) See SNP press release from February 2011 (http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2011/feb/snp-pledge-50000-work-places-young-scots) under the bullet point "Record support for bursaries by continuing the £10 million of additional funding this coming year to provide 50,000 bursaries a year for the next four years", Angela Constance (at the time the SNP's Minister for Skills and Further Education) announced "I can confirm we will guarantee the additional funding for bursaries not just for next year but for the full four year parliament.”