On Friday 18th September, Marie Rimmer MP met with students’ union officers to discuss government proposals to scrap maintenance grants provided to students from low and middle income households.
The grants provide support of up £3,387 per year to disadvantaged students. The Government plans to scrap the grants and replace them with increased loans, saddling graduates with thousands more in debt.
Commenting, Marie said: “These Government proposals will hit hundreds of students in our area. One in three 18 year olds in St Helens South and Whiston went onto university study last year and many rely on the support provided by maintenance grants.”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that under the government’s plans, the average graduate debt for a three year course will rise from £40,500 to £53,000.
Marie and the student officers also discussed how a number of mature students may be hit by the plans. Currently grants are not counted as part of housing benefit assessment but the extra loans would be included under the new structure. Evidence suggests that many of these students will be hundreds of pounds worse off as a result of the changes.
A case study shown to Marie of one local disabled student shows that despite government promises that loans will be increased by 10% they will be more than £800 per year worse off.
Marie added: “The widening participation agenda is supposed to encourage more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to go onto higher education. As well as missing out on the new, so called, ‘National Living Wage’ and under 21s no longer being able to claim housing benefit; this Government is now cutting support to some of the most vulnerable students in our area.
“I have already signed a motion in Parliament against these changes and will continue to work with Edge Hill Students’ Union and others to challenge these proposals that will damage the aspirations of so many local young people.”