The Government’s plans to scrap maintenance grants in favour of loans is deliberately targeting students from the lowest income families.
This leaves the Tories’ claim to be a One Nation government in tatters. Labour are calling for the Tories to abandon their plans.
Maintenance grants are non-repayable grants of up to £3,387 for the poorest university students and they help with costs such as rent, food, energy bills and study materials.
They are a key element in improving the accessibility of further education for the most disadvantaged young people in our country.
This change would mean that the poorest 40% of students going to university in England will graduate with debts of up to £53,000 from a three-year course.
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 and is indicative of the wider Government policy of replacing grants, which also includes scrapping student nurse bursaries.
Students from the poorest background shouldn’t be saddled with a lifetime of additional debt to pay for the Tories failure and when we have a shortage of nurses we should be encouraging people into the profession not introducing policies that will increase these shortages.
Labour are clear that the Government must do all it can to ensure that those from the poorest backgrounds reach their full potential, whether that’s going into higher education – via university or further education institutions – or getting a good quality apprenticeship.
We have argued that the Government needs to take a much more long-term view when it comes to spending programmes and cease their focus on short-term changes which deliver small savings now but create problems in later years.
This is the case with scrapping maintenance grants and bursaries in favour of loans for lower income students.
The Government know these changes are wrong – that is why they were not in their election manifesto and why they attempted to force through these changes in a committee meeting rather than on the floor of the House of Commons, showing yet again that the Tories are trying to govern from the shadows avoiding debate, challenge and scrutiny.
Access to higher education should not depend on our young people having the ability to pay and they should not be burdened with unmanageable levels of debt, please be assured that I and my Labour colleagues will continue to press for a better deal for our young people.