Parents say axing grants will discourage children from applying to uni

Thursday 14-01-2016 - 00:00

New research shows parents are concerned the government's plan to scrap maintenance grants will discourage their children from applying to university.

NUS and Populus surveyed adults with children aged 18 and under, of which 45 per cent were from low income backgrounds (with a combined income of £25,000 or less).

Students in these families are eligible for the maintenance grants the government is planning to replace with loans. This means students from poorer backgrounds could take on up to £12,000 more debt than they do currently.

Two fifths of parents, with a combined income of £25,000 or less, believe their children will be discouraged from applying to university if grants are replaced with loans.

Over half of parents surveyed believe the plan to scrap grants undermines the government’s objective to increase access to university for poorer students.

These findings come as the government attempts to avoid proper scrutiny and sneak this legislation through the back door today (14 January) via a 'delegated legislation committee' – which has limited powers to make the government reconsider – rather than a full debate in the House of Commons. This was highlighted by Paul Blomfield MP during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (13 January).

NUS has repeatedly criticised the government’s handling of this proposal, including the failure to properly investigate concerns over the impact of scrapping grants. Even under the threat of legal action, the government has refused to fully release their assessment on how the plan will affect students from widening participation backgrounds.

The research also found:

  • 55 per cent of all parents and 60 per cent of parents with a combined income of less than £25,000 believe replacing maintenance grants with loans would undermine the government’s objective to increase access to university for people from poorer backgrounds.
  • 63 per cent of all parents and 70 per cent of parents with a combined income of less than £25,000 believe it is unfair students from poorer backgrounds may have to take out loans up to £12,000 more than they currently do.
  • 51 per cent of all parents and 56 per cent of parents with a combined income of less than £25,000 believe if students from poorer backgrounds have to take out an extra £12,000 in loans it will be bad for the long term prospects of our economy.

The government is also planning to replace the NHS bursary with loans. Thousands of student nurses and midwives marched in protest on 10 January and half of all parents surveyed believe the removal of the bursary will discourage people in their families from studying nursing.

Megan Dunn, NUS National President, said: “The government has continually denied the scrapping of maintenance grants would negatively affect students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. This is just not true.

“Our research shows it’s not just students but their whole families who have serious concerns about these changes. Parents, particularly those with lower incomes, can see how damaging scrapping grants will be for their children's futures.

“Students are already facing rising amounts of debt when they graduate, so piling even bigger debts on the shoulders of the poorest students is extremely unfair. Parents are rightly worried about how this debt will affect their children. The government's proposals risks putting them off university altogether.

“Today MPs must choose to save maintenance grants. We cannot allow proposals that attack lower income families to become a reality. If the government truly cares about widening access, it must urgently halt its plans to shut out poorer students from their education."


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