The government has announced that it will abolish maintenance grants for the poorest university students, and because it is such an unpopular move, it will be doing it without debate or vote in the Commons or the Lords.
At the moment if your parents are poorly paid, you can receive a small grant to help with cost of living at university. It starts at £3,387 a year for families with income of less than £25,000, tapering off to zero for families with income of £42,620. That might sound quite generous for the half a million students a year who receive it, but average student rent outside London is £4,834, so the full maintenance grant doesn’t even cover the additional cost of a student having a roof over their heads. Maintenance loans are also available, for £5,740 a year, but even a full grant and loan doesn’t cover the costs of accommodation, books, travel and food. That means that university is already unaffordable for anyone without parents on a reasonable income. and those kids who do go have to get part time jobs, which prevents them from studying as much, resulting in significant drop out rates.
Now the government is proposing to do away with the maintenance grant, making it completely impossible for anyone from a poor background to go to university. Mwhahaha. Not only are they ditching the grants though, they are doing it through a legislation committee – a device that passes small changes without requiring debate by MPs. This is not the first time that the government has sought to hurt people through secondary legislation that bypasses the democratic process. They did the same with cuts to benefits, attempting to prevent debate in the Lords. It looks like a superbly evil trend that will allow the government to get away with all manner of mischief.
Whether the government really needs to stop the poor going to university is debatable. Social mobility is already worse in the UK than in any other developed country, and it has got worse since the 70s. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened, and the proportion of those in the bottom 5th of income compared to those in the top 5th of income whose children go to university has decreased from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. And the latest moves from the Tories will ensure the poor are kept in their place. Mwhahaha.