In Parliament today, Labour are using Opposition Day debate time to hold the Government to account on their decision to cut student financial support; and this morning I met with students and representatives of the NUS to let them know I’ll be voting in support of keeping student maintenance grants.
Scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans is deliberately targeting students from the lowest income families who are working hard and doing the right thing to better their lot in life. Instead of investing in future generations the Tories are betraying students and making life harder for the estimated 500,000 students from the poorest backgrounds who – as a direct result of scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans – will leave university with substantially higher debts than their better-off peers.
This is a political decision – indicative of wider government policy of replacing grants with loans such as scrapping student nurse bursaries – motivated by short-term financial savings.
Experience in Scotland shows that if you replace bursaries with loans, then students from the poorest families end up with the biggest debt and progress on widening access is reduced. Students from the poorest background shouldn’t be saddled with a lifetime of additional debt to pay for the Tories failure, this change will not benefit students or deal with the self-made black hole in student finances caused by raising tuition fees to £9,000.
The Government must revisit its plans urgently.