News Editor Joshua Herman reports on how recent government announcements concerning Maintenance Loan increases and funding falls short of current inflation rates
On January 11th, the government announced that Maintenance Loans will see a 2.8% rise in England for the 2023/2024 academic year. It has been reported that this rise falls below the current inflation rates of above 10%. Maintenance Loans increased by 2.3% for the 2021/2022 academic year, whilst inflation sat at approximately 10% at the beginning.
Government plans to invest £15 million into university hardship funds have also been confirmed. However, with two million undergraduate students in the UK, this amounts to less than £8 per student.
Save the Student conducted their 2022 National Money Survey and discovered that ‘the shortfall between the average Maintenance Loan and the average cost of living is now a staggering £439 every month – an increase of £99 on 2021, and £216 on 2020.’
Save the Student calls on the Minister for Higher Education, Robert Halfon, to increase Maintenance Loan funding according to inflation rates. The government’s investment doesn’t account for the years of insufficient growth – and students won’t be able to benefit from this cost of living support.
The National Union of Students (NUS) have also responded to the government plans, stating that these loans and hardship funds are too little, too late.
NUS Vice President for Higher Education, Chloe Field, has said: ‘The government finally recognising that the cost-of-living crisis is leaving our student communities on the brink, and that existing support has failed to reach them. That we have got here at all is down to the hard work and relentless campaigning of the student movement over the past six months.
‘We welcome this investment of £15 million into university hardship funds. It’s vital that these funds are made accessible to as many students as soon as possible. Ultimately, hardship funds are a quick fix to a long-term problem which has come to a head in the cost-of-living crisis.
‘The government must go further to protect students in the long term, by increasing the value of the maintenance package, implementing a rent freeze and further controls on spiralling student rent, reducing transport costs and increasing the minimum wage for apprentices and young people.
‘The 2.8% increase in the maintenance loan for 2023/24 is woefully inadequate and will leave students over £1,500 worse off than they would have been if student support was tied to inflation. More than a quarter of students are living on less than £50 a month after rent and bills. If maintenance support continues to lag behind inflation, the number of students in poverty is only going to increase.’
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