Students from low income families starting university courses in England are no longer able to apply for grants towards living costs.
Under changes that came into effect on Monday 1 August 2016, grants for students from low-income homes will be replaced by loans. Previously, students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less received a full grant of £3,387 a year.
The change was announced by George Osborne, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Summer Budget 2015. The thinking behind the move is that going to university boosts employability and earnings.
However, a new report by the Intergenerational Foundation lobby group, published recently, suggests that having to pay back student debts will wipe out any graduate premium for most professions.
Many leading educational organisations have also expressed concern about the effects it may have on students from poorer backgrounds. Some say it will deter people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds from attending university or leave them with even greater debt.
The National Union of Students (NUS)
NUS vice-president Sorana Vieru said: "It's a disgraceful change that basically punishes poorer students simply for being poor, so they have to take a bigger loan than those students from privileged backgrounds.
"It could put off students from underprivileged backgrounds from applying, who might not understand how the loan system works or are very debt-averse.
"We also know that mature students are way more debt-averse than younger students and BME (black and minority ethnic) students perceive student debt on a par with commercial debt."
University College Union (UCU)
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University College Union (UCU), said: “Cost does matter and there is a very real danger that raising tuition fees combined with the ending of maintenance grants will damage progress made by widening participation initiatives.”
She said recent UCU research showed that when young people choose to go to university, those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to put cost at the forefront of their decision-making, often opting for institutions close to home that offer cheaper study that can be combined with part-time work.
“The continued squeeze on students", she added, "risks creating a polarised university system of haves and have-nots where costs determines young people’s choices.”
If you are in higher or further education, you can find out what help may be available to you through benefits, grants or other financial support. Depending on your personal situation and where you reside, you may find the following information pages useful:
To find out what help may be available from grant giving charities, you can use the Turn2us Grants Search which contains details of over 3000 charitable funds, including many educational charities.
Find an Adviser
You can also use our Find an Adviser tool to find face to face advice in your local area.
If you come from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
Contact the Student Finance service for the country you come from for further information about what is available.
• More information on loans and grants in Wales
• More information on loans and grants in Scotland
• More information on loans and grants in Northern Ireland
BBC News article: Student grants replaced by loans
Guardian news article: Abolition of student maintenance grant 'will hurt those most in need'
Guardian news article Maintenance grants scrapped for poorest students