Forget the £9000 fee, the maintenance loans are the most pressing issue for students

Opening ‘The Guardian’ back in 2010 and seeing that university fees were being tripled to a healthy £9000 a year, that indeed the Liberal Democrats had not fulfilled their promise, is something I will never forget. An election campaign based on ‘legitimate’ support for student welfare had brought Mr. Clegg and co. huge support. Support from me as well, I might add.

But looking back, having completed almost two years of a university course, and having resigned myself to the inevitable debt rate which would soon follow, the £9000 student fees are not the biggest problem we students face.

Labour’s recent commitment to a reduction in fees to £6000 does not interest me. Partly because I am reluctant to believe it could take place, but more importantly because the low maintenance loans provided to students are the more problematic and pressing issue.

The university fee of £9000 does not even touch the student account. The fact that it goes straight from the loans company to the university means we do not associate ourselves with it. Effectively we have the money to pay for university at our disposal. The payback system is also incredible, from the student’s point of view, in that we pay a small 9% of our salary towards the loan we took out, and that is only after our salary goes beyond the threshold of £21000. So as painful as it is to take out a loan of so much money, it does not affect the student in a particularly direct way. Or at least not immediately.

The idea of a maintenance loan is quite simply to limit the immediate financial burden of a degree. So we are talking accommodation, food, heating, maybe even books (the cost of which are a huge burden for students). A maintenance loan would sustain a student's fundamental and bare essentials so that a large focus could be laced on the studies. Again, this is in the immediate interest of our esteemed government, to support a country in the future we need good graduates ad for that we need studies to be a big focus.

I guess you could say that’s as easy as ABC.

The problem is, however that a paltry £3000 annual maintenance loan does not even begin to cover the essentials of university life. In fact it barely, if at all, covers accommodation rent for the year, meaning alternative sources of income are needed to provide the other essentials to a student. 

We are here talking about of course food and heating, the bare essentials, you might say. We are here talking about required elements of a student life. A student is thus faced with a choice. The selected solutions swing variably between a job, a payday loan or a lack of education. 

To reject the third as absent is to disregard students who feel they legitimately cannot afford a degree and that to stay out of education would be a better solution than to attempt to scrounge up money from wherever possible. 

Students are more likely to take out a payday loan, purely for the reason that they cannot fully support themselves while at university. A total of 46,000 students who took out a payday loan last year, more than 2 per cent of all undergraduates in the UK.

A payday loan also means that more debt is piled on the already astronomical debt a student will receive through the student and maintenance loans.

The minuteness of the maintenance loans is the overarching problem with the university system. For many, it means they have to take up a job or a payday loan. To be compelled to do either means the student experience is compressed and limited before it has even begun. 

By: Joshua Stein, I am an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. Twitter: @josh_n_stein.
Forget the £9000 fee, the maintenance loans are the most pressing issue for students Forget the £9000 fee, the maintenance loans are the most pressing issue for students Reviewed by Admin on 20:58 Rating: 5

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