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The Student Loan Debate

Katie Templeton discusses whether means-tested maintenance loans are truly effective.

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When applying to University, I was astonished to discover that as a 20-year-old woman I would still have to be financially dependent on my parents for three more years due to the means tested maintenance loans. Legally I could drive, drink alcohol, and get married, yet for the next three years I would be treated as a child myself, relying on my parents for pocket money.  It seems unfair that students from wealthier backgrounds are entitled to a lesser loan because of their parents’ earnings. As Deuteronomy states: “fathers shall not be killed because of their children, children shall not be killed because of their fathers.”

While the comparison between death and student loans may seem melodramatic, it aptly makes the point. We are all over 18 and in the eyes of the law fully fledged adults. While there are parents who can afford to send their children to university, does it mean that they should be obligated to spend money to secure their adult children’s future? Perhaps we should extend this to requiring wealthier parents to provide a deposit and guarantee mortgage payments of their adult offspring to ease the congested rental market? Where does government say in how private wealth should be applied end? However, this article is not the lament of the wealthy. Instead it focuses on the failure of the loan system to address the issue it was introduced to deal with.

Philip Hammond’s “back of the envelope” calculations leave much to be desired and fail to provide equal opportunities for able but less wealthy students

Since the abolition of the maintenance grant, the number of students from less economically well-off backgrounds taking up university places has fallen to record lows. The maximum maintenance loan received by students is £8430 per year, which is offered to those whose parents’ yearly income was less than £25,000. Let’s now put the “lucky” recipient of this largesse at Exeter University. With £8430 pounds per year and living in the cheapest self catered accommodation, which would cost them £3680 per year, it would leave £4750. This equates to roughly £105 per week. At first this seems to be a reasonable sum of money. However, after buying essentials such as food, clothes, books and toiletries, there are still train journeys home (Mummy and Daddy’s £25,000 per annum didn’t stretch to a Fiat 500), nights out, joining societies or sports teams.

While it is possible to survive on £105 a week in accommodation 15 minutes from campus, never going out and eating cheap food, it is hardly a compelling way to spend 3 years, whilst watching your affluent peers living the dream! While I’m not suggesting unlimited funds for students, Philip Hammond’s “back of the envelope” calculations leave much to be desired and fail to provide equal opportunities for able but less wealthy students.

So the next time the alarm rings at some ungodly hour as you step over empty vodka bottles to grab your designer backpack to make that 11am lecture (the first you’ve attended this term) spare a thought for those who would gladly change places with you but cannot afford to, loan or not.

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