Student maintenance grants are to be replaced with higher loans and regardless of statistics – it’s clear – life as a student is becoming even more challenging

The scrapping of maintenance grants is just another obstacle which poorer students now face

Tuition fees are set to increase even higher, England has been awarded the nation with the largest amount of student debt among English speaking countries and now, maintenance grants have been scrapped. It would almost be funny, if it wasn’t so saddening.

Knowledge is power. Yes, it is. From academia to the political sphere, an understanding of socially defining topics such as: history, politics, economics and world affairs is vital to gain a critical view of day-to-day issues. Fortunately, a university education can provide young people with the thinking skills they need to live sustainably. But, it’s not just knowledge which commands power, money does too. And unfortunately, students don’t have much of it.

Previously, students from households with an income of £25,000 or less received a full grant of £3,387 a year. Now they will receive larger loans, which means more debt. A recent study by Save the Student showed over 67percent of pupils don’t understand how their loan works and 80percent of students worry about whether they have enough money to cover their expenses.

The amount of students from poorer backgrounds attending higher education has increased since the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in 2012. However, the Intergenerational Foundation, an independent charity specialising in research into equality between different age generations, has found there is no guaranteed graduate earnings premium for those entering higher education – unless you are an Oxbridge, medical or dentistry graduate.

The report shows an extensive range of factors influence whether a graduate receives an earnings premium. Some of these include: pre-university education, the higher education institution attended, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, gender, subject choice, degree result, work experience undertaken, the supply of graduates in the labour market, chosen career path and market conditions.

For those students who are going to suffer due to the abolition of maintenance grants, budgeting is key – pupils should calculate their annual income and divide it by 12. The final total should be allocated to each calendar month, which means you can avoid getting into further debt and are at least aware of how much money you have for expenses. Research findings offer credible reasons as to why grants should not be scrapped. Conversely, although there is little logic behind the decision, there is some credibility to the manner in which the student loans system is designed.

However, the topic of most concern, which politicians haven’t commented on is the lack of financial understanding among students. The Sutton Trust, found pupils graduating from post-92 universities (formerly known as polytechnics), have an average starting salary of £18,009 – while those who attended Oxbridge earn £25,582. Evidently, students need to be provided with well-articulated and comprehensive information regarding their future earnings potential and job prospects to ensure they make informed decisions. Universities Minister, Jo Johnson, recently said: “everyone in our country should be allowed to rise as a far as their talents will take them, whoever they are and wherever they’re from”. He’s right. But to do that, politicians need to ensure students have a thorough understanding of the financial implications of attending university. Then, they can make educated decisions.

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