Grants not loans – how can low income families send children to university?

When I was younger…which is quite a few years ago, my tuition fees were paid and I got a grant…not a full one but a fairly decent grant. Well last Thursday, the government decided to axe student maintenance grants, with what may leave up to half a million 18 year olds no longer able to afford university.

The government is turning these grants into loans you see. Unfortunately, we can protest all we like, but this legislation is being pushed through without a vote. In this time of austerity, I can understand why maybe some subjects aren’t top priority, but removing this funding from youngsters who want to be doctors, engineers, or teachers is crazy.

The loans (£3,387) are for accomodation, food and other necessities, and are essential for students who can’t ring the bank of mum or dad easily. Now all student finance will have to be repaid once a graduate earns over £21,000. Coupled with the fact that some universities can charge more than £9,000 per year if they can show high-quality teaching, this is not great news, especially when you have two teenagers like I do.

Under the new system, from September 2016 students (wow, not much notice there then!) will get a higher amount of up to £8,200. However, this will need to be repaid under the same terms as existing loans once a graduate earns more than £21,000 a year.

What I believe will happen longer term is:

  • more students will stay at home and commute to a uni close by rather than live in digs
  • education will be in danger of becoming truly elitist
  • our brightest stars will be discouraged from ever studying at a university
  • young people will look for alternative routes into employment, such as apprenticeships and look for study funded by firms
  • all the good work done on social mobility through bursaries at independent schools, grammar schools etc will be wasted

So what should parents start to do:

  1. Sign this petition to get the government to reconsider:
  2. Work out the savings difference between a local university and one further away – this may be the only option for some families
  3. Help your child to identify and get a summer job, and depending on the course they take, maybe encourage them to find a virtual admin or online job during term time…check From AlditoHarrods for ideas
  4. Start teaching them how to budget and about the value of money
  5. Find the largest 0% student overdraft available, but encourage the kids to avoid going over the limit if possible
  6. If your child is super bright, apply for awards and scholarships that are available for a tiny proportion of students
  7. Look for tax efficient savings accounts

Shocked is an understatement and saddened. Good luck if you have children who want to go to uni and please, please share ideas on what other parents can do.

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