Emily left angry over student funding ‘cut’
THE poorest students from Wales going to university will get £978 less under the new finance package starting next month.
One student starting university next month under Wales’ new student finance package says she is shocked that she, and others like her, from the poorest backgrounds, will be worse-off than those under the old system, despite government assurances.
Emily Hughes, from Maesteg, spotted the discrepancy when she and her parents compared the package she will get with that of her brother Andrew, who starts his fourth year at the same time as she starts her first year at university next month.
The 19-year-old says she was angry that after the Diamond Review the poorest students will get less money to live on, despite the government saying they will be bettersupported.
Emily and Andrew, 21, both qualify for the maximum loans and grants available as their parents’ household income is below £18,370.
Andrew is a final-year IT student at the University of the West of England, getting £9,978 for maintenance living costs, while Emily gets £9,000. The money is made up from a grant and a loan.
Andrew – and others entitled to the maximum help under the old system – will receive money for living costs made up from a £5,161 maintenance grant and £4,637 maintenance loan making a total £9,798 available to him.
Emily – and others enti- tled to the maximum help under the new system starting from September 2018 – will receive money for living costs made up from a £8,100 maintenance grant and £900 maintenance loan, making a total £9,000.
Emily, who left Maesteg Comprehensive last term, has been working in a shoe shop all summer to help fund her first year studying film and television at Bath Spa University.
She said it makes no difference that the money for living costs comes in a larger grant and smaller loan because the total available to her is still less and won’t cover her living costs. She says she will still need to get a job as the total is not enough anyway.
“I was shocked when I saw I would get less in total to live on. It’s a figure that is hidden away. I feel lied to and cheated. For me, I think university is expensive but worth it in the end, but this might end up discouraging some people.
“I will have to work to pay for university. Living costs are a worry. My shared flat in university halls is the cheapest but will still be £154 a week – £6,000 a year – without food. Budgeting and food is a worry.”
Like other students, Emily will also have to take out a loan to pay her £9,000 annual tuition fees. But as she will only have to start repaying that when she earns more than £25,000, it is the day-today living costs which is a far bigger and immediate worry.
Her father Peter, who works part-time for a community council, and mother Susan, a cleaner, said they always wanted their children to go to university. Although they have budgeted to help a bit with living costs from savings, Emily and Andrew will have to work while they are students to help fund their studies.
Peter said: “The Welsh Government after the Diamond Review scrapped tuition fee grants and promised to better support students with the maintenance package to provide more money for daily living, however this is clearly not the case.
“It was determined that the key barrier for students going to university was daily living costs and therefore the new package was designed to specifically help encourage more students from all backgrounds in Wales to go to university, and yet the Welsh Government has done the opposite and cut the total maintenance package available to students from the poorest families.”
The Welsh Government said: “There are some differences within the system, with some students benefiting in comparison with previous cohorts. Care is always taken to ensure that eligibility for student support packages is as fair as possible.
“That is why Wales will be the only country in Europe to provide equivalent maintenance support – in grants and loans – to part and full time under- graduates and postgraduates. In line with the recommendations of the Diamond Review, Welsh students starting their studies in the 2018-19 academic year will continue to have access to the most generous system of support in the UK which is designed to ensure that all eligible students are able to access a minimum level of support, regardless of household income. Repayment of fee loans continue to be based on income after graduation, not what you borrow.”
Emily Hughes with her mum and dad, Peter and Susan