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Almost half a million students wouldn’t attend university under Govt plans, NUS polling finds

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Hundreds of thousands of university students wouldn’t have been able to attend university under the Government’s proposed changes to higher education, a NUS survey has found.

The Government’s plans to reform higher education – a consultation on which closed on 6 May 2022 – would stop students from getting a student loan if they don’t pass both Maths and English at GCSE. Their proposals also include forcing graduates to begin repaying their student loan when earning less and over a longer period.

Ahead of the publication of legislative plans by the Government in the coming months, a poll by NUS can reveal that 22 per cent of higher education students would not have applied to university if it took 40 years to write off their student loan instead of the current 30 year period. One in five (19 per cent) said they would not have applied if they had known that they had to pay back their loans once they started earning £25,000 instead of the current £27,295.

When asked about the impact of grade requirements on university attendance, 10 per cent of students said they would not have been able to attend university if they had been required to achieve passes in both Maths and English GCSEs to access student loans.

This research comes after reports from the Institute for Fiscal Studies outlined that planned changes would disproportionately hit those from marginalised backgrounds and lower-earning graduates, and following a high-profile intervention by former Universities Ministers Greg Clark and Chris Skidmore warning that poorer students are being put off university.

Commenting, NUS UK President Larissa Kennedy said:

“The Government’s proposals are calculated cruelness.

“Their changes to student loans will stop those from marginalised groups from attending university. Meanwhile, the highest earners will save tens of thousands thanks to these plans, and those who do attend and end up on lower and middle incomes will pay back £54,000 more over the course of their careers.

“At a time where the cost of living is soaring and real earnings are crashing, for the more vulnerable these classist changes could be the difference between heating and eating. The Minister is saddling young people with unimaginable debt for the next forty years of their lives.

“Their plans to introduce minimum eligibility requirements are a further attack on opportunity. They gaslight us with the language of “levelling up” but their proposals are classist, ableist and racist. By seeking to gatekeep education for the most privileged, they are cruelly targeting those from marginalised communities”.

Atlas Adams, an undergraduate student at Birmingham City University, explained how these proposals would’ve prevented them from going to university:

“The changes to the student loan system favour the abled and the wealthy. People who didn’t get the grades because of their learning difficulties, like me, will suffer because of this.

“These changes are classist and ableist.  Everyone deserves an education, but this will sink normal folk into even deeper debt”.

Taylor DeMann, a prospective student, outlined that these planned changes would put them off studying:

“With the cost of living going up, and wages not following that lead, the lowering of the threshold for student loan repayments would directly impact me and effectively stop me from being able to achieve higher education. Raising the eligibility requirements would have also prevented me from studying at university, as I struggled to achieve what the Government determines are ‘acceptable’ grades”.

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