Maintenance grants for students from low income families could be cut to provide savings for the Department for Business.
Plans to phase out the grants were first drawn up in 2013, but Nick Clegg, ex-Deputy Prime Minister, blocked the proposal. Now it is understood that ministers are reconsidering the idea in a bid to find savings ahead of the Budget.
Government officials refused to comment on the proposal to cut the grants, but did not deny the suggestion that it was being considered.
Former Conservative adviser Nick Hillman from the Higher Education Policy Institute believes the cuts are likely to happen, as “BIS [Department for Business, Innovation and Skills] is one of the departments that no political party promised to protect, and this is one of the very big items in BIS’s budget”.
More than half a million students in England currently receive a maintenance grant, worth up to £3,387 a year for students from households with incomes under £25,000. In total, maintenance grants are worth £1.57 billion a year.
“If grants are cut, it could mean the cost of student loans will go up for everyone or repayment conditions will get tougher than they already are”
Vice President of the National Union of Students (NUS) Megan Dunn said: “If grants are cut, it could mean the cost of student loans will go up for everyone or repayment conditions will get tougher than they already are. This is yet another unreasonable barrier to accessing higher education”.
“These proposals put the most disadvantaged children at an even bigger disadvantage”
First year English student Larissa Rowan told Impact: “These proposals put the most disadvantaged children at an even bigger disadvantage”.
Toni Pearce, President of NUS, also commented, on her twitter page: “Cutting maintenance grants would be an absolute disgrace”.
Completely removing the maintenance grant could save around £2 billion over three years, whilst converting individual grants to loans or restricting eligibility would save less.
However, higher education experts are said to be querying whether the changes would save the taxpayer money in the long term.
Image: Ken Teegardin via Flickr