It’s the biggest change to student finance since the increase of tuition fees in 2012. In July’s budget, George Osborne announced the government’s plans to scrap Maintenance Grants – a decision which has been hotly-debated in the sector.
New full-time students who start their courses on or after 1 August 2016 will no longer be able to apply for grants to help with their living costs, instead they can get a higher rate of Maintenance Loan. The change is intended to simplify the current student finance package.
Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities and Science, said that eligible students on low incomes will receive more money to help with their living costs – potentially qualifying for a maximum Maintenance Loan that is 10.3% higher than the combined maximum Maintenance Grant and loan support available in AY 2015/16.
The maximum Maintenance Loan available for students on the lowest household income will be increased by 10.3%
Maintenance Loans will also replace Special Support Grants, which are currently available for students in certain circumstances.
The amount of Maintenance Loan a student can get depends on where they live or study – this hasn’t changed. The first part of the Maintenance Loan isn’t based on their household income, but they can apply for more that is. Maintenance Loans have to be paid back but not until the student has finished or left their course and their income is over £21,000 a year – this is also the same as the current repayment terms and conditions.
The changes won’t affect continuing full-time students who have already started their course before 1 August 2016. They will continue to get any Maintenance Grant or Special Support Grant they are entitled to. However, students who defer their 2015/16 course to AY 2016/17 will fall into the new student finance package and will no longer be able to get a Maintenance Grant.
The maximum tuition fees and maximum fee loans will remain the same for 2016/17. Universities and colleges can charge up to £9,000 a year for full-time courses. Eligible students can get a Tuition Fee Loan to cover these fees. They have to pay it back but not until they finish or leave their course and their income is over £21,000 a year.
The extra help available for students with a disability or students with children or an adult who depends on them financially has not changed.
Students who have extra costs at uni or college as a direct result of their disability will still be able to get Disabled Students’ Allowances. DSAs don’t have to be paid back unless the student leaves their course early.
If the student has dependent children they can still apply for a Childcare Grant to help them pay for childcare while they study. It doesn’t have to be paid back unless the student leaves their course early or overestimates their childcare costs. They could also get a Parents’ Learning Allowance, depending on their household income. And students who have an adult who depends on them financially can still apply for an Adult Dependants’ Grant.
They might also be able to get financial help from their university or college, such as a bursary or scholarship. Students should be encouraged to check their university or college website for more details.
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