So with today’s budget announcement, I thought I’d quickly put my own views and thoughts on the matter out there. There were so many points covered but not all are either applicable to me or interest me so I’ll just stick to a few. I’ll probably address one or two over a period of time as there’s lots to talk about.
Within my own circles, opinion is very much split and not surprisingly, this is because some parts affect some more than others. How do I feel about it? Generally, I’m quite unaffected but maybe after jotting my thoughts down this will change. We’ll see.
So to kick off I’ll start with the change to Student Maintenance. From September 2016 Student Maintenance Grants will be scrapped. From the Twitter uproar, I think a lot of people stopped listening at that point but what does this really mean, who will it affect and how?
I think it helps to understand what the grant is in the first instance. According to studentparents.org, it is a non-repayable grant to help cover the cost of living expenses and if you started after 2012, this can be up to £3387. The grant is means tested and so is really for students coming from a lower income household. This is in addition to the maintenance loan that does need to be repaid. Please bear in mind, that for every £1 of grant you get, the loan reduces by 50p meaning that students from lower income households have less of a student debt to pay back than their more well off counterparts.
Today, George Osborne announced that “…from 2016/17 academic year, we will replace maintenance grants with loans for new students, loans that only have to be paid back once they earn over £21,000 a year.” So that’s the what. In a nutshell, the free money the government gave to students from poorer backgrounds is no longer free and will need to be repaid. The good news is that the new loans available will be £8200, which is an increase of £766 compared to 2015/16.
I tweeted Student Finance England this afternoon as I’ll be starting my degree this September but wanted to clarify who these changes will affect. Luckily, they got back to me quite quickly so I can confirm that these changes affect NEW students from 2016/17 so current students will continue to receive the current system of ‘grant and loan’ for the remainder of their course. Whoopty do!
In all honesty, I’m relieved it doesn’t affect me but I really had nothing to worry about. Even if these changes did affect me, it’s so important to remember that all this change means is that the size of loan you have to repay is bigger than if you started in 2015/16 for example. The amount you repay, so far, remains unchanged at 9% of earnings above £21k from the April after graduation. All this means is that it will take longer to pay off the debt as there will be more of it but let’s face it, most people won’t pay back all of their loan anyway as it gets written off after 30 years. The real losers here are the high earners as they will pay a lot more of their loan in the long run.
So what’s my message? Chill! It’s not great news, but if you are starting your course when these changes take effect, repayment is not an issue until you start earning and is a percentage of that income. Go get your education and worry about the rest AFTER!