English maintenance loan system discourages working class students - new report

English maintenance loan system discourages working class students - new report

NUS UK urges the Government to fundamentally rethink its student funding system in response to Sutton Trust report. 

The Sutton Trust revealed that the current maintenance loan system is discouraging students from working class backgrounds from going to university. 

Today, the Sutton Trust has released a report which found that: 

  • The maximum maintenance loan is £9,978 per year. However, the average student in this group spends £11,400 per year on essentials. 
  • For the 2024/25 academic year, students will be £2,000 worse-off than if rises in maintenance support had been in line with inflation since 2021/22. 
  • Over a quarter (28%) of undergraduates have skipped meals to save on food costs, with a third (33%) of students from working class families doing so. 
  • Almost a quarter of students reporting they had missed a course deadline because of their job. 
  • If parental income thresholds had increased with inflation since 2016, families on £32,535 or less would be eligible for the maximum loan, compared to the current much lower threshold of £25,000. 
  • Poorer students could graduate with £60,100 of debt, 38% higher than the £43,600 for those from wealthier families. 
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are also the most debt averse, with the risk that in the current system, poorer students will feel limited to options closer to home, or will be put off from attending university altogether.


Commenting, Chloe Field, NUS UK Vice President Higher Education, said: 

“The Government couldn’t have designed a less accessible education system if they tried. These findings show that young people from working class backgrounds are slowly being squeezed out of higher education because of the immense cost students are expected to undertake. 

“We support the Sutton Trust’s asks for the UK Government to reintroduce maintenance grants for students. These grants must cover the actual cost of living, not for just essentials but including enough to cover valuable extracurricular hobbies and socialising with friends to tackle the student loneliness crisis. 

“Maintenance funding must also be extended to international and postgraduate students, so that students from working class backgrounds can pursue their education for as long as they want to, as students from richer backgrounds are currently able to. 

“I urge the Government to fundamentally rethink the student funding system and come up with something students can actually get behind in the run up to the General Election.” 

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