Last Wednesday, George Osborne announced that the maintenance grant available to students from low income households would be scrapped, and added onto the student loan which, unlike the grant, has to be repaid.
While this may understandably seem a very sudden blow to those considering going to university, the move towards making it more and more expensive to be a student has been a decades-long gradual incline. Until September 1998, there were no tuition fees for UK students. In fact, the government actually owed students money in the form of a maintenance grant, which was introduced following the Education Act of 1962.
In 1990, when the Student Loans Company
was founded, these were paired with low-interest loans. Since then, the student finance available has generally risen with inflation. For example, a student living outside of London but away from their parents could get a grant of up to £3387 in the 2015/16 academic year.
Indeed, supporters of the abolition of maintenance grants argue that the increase in total support available to the highest amount ever seen (admittedly, all of it repayable) cushions the blow.
While financial support for students is still available (and, if you’ll believe the Conservatives, better than ever before), the massive rise in tuition fees - as well as the cuts to student finance - have left a bad taste in many potential students’ mouths.
It is almost paradoxical then, that the proportion of young people entering university has increased significantly in recent years. In the 2013/14 academic year, an estimated 49% of young people entered higher education, compared to 43% in 2006/7 and even lower levels decades ago in the years of free tuition fees.
An important note to make though, is the swing from low skill…