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Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
The return of student grants - right or wrong?
The government is considering bringing back student maintenance grants, which it abolished four years ago.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Two possible models for a new system of grants have been proposed. The first would restore grants for all students, while the second would apply only to poorer students following a means test.
Ministers have accepted that fears about student debt are deterring many young people from poorer backgrounds from going to university.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Tony Blair said: "We'll have to find a better way to combine state funding and student contributions," he told the conference.
To cover the costs of the new grants scheme, all graduates would have to make a contribution towards the costs of higher education once their incomes rise above a certain level.
Should student grants be re-introduced? Would you also like to see the government reverse the decision to introduce tuition fees, or should all students pay for their university education?
As a parent I find that the whole subject of funding for university is designed to penalise the middle-income earner and is inherently unfair. If my son had left home and lived in squalor for a couple of years before he applied for university he would have been given full support for his course. Because he came from a caring and helpful home I was penalised by being required to pay for his education even though he was over 18.
A country as wealthy as ours should be able to give everyone the opportunity to have a better education. Those who have the ability should be given everything they need to succeed in bringing about a better Britain.
As a student in the final year of my A-Levels I am glad that the decision I made 2 weeks ago was the right one. I was already set on taking a gap year and now with the news that grants are to be restored, I shall apply for a place for entry in 2003 as a post A-Level applicant.
Michael Thomas, UK
During my postgraduate studies I had the 'fortune' to see at first hand what the abolition of grants did to people. The university ran a soup kitchen and shelter during the vacation periods, where those in dire financial straits could have free food and sleep on the floor of one of the Union bars.
We should finance higher education and reap the rewards during that person's working life. While some students may well go overseas to work once they've graduated, there are many overseas students who come to the UK to work, so it all balances out in the end.
Matt Prescott, UK
Grants are required if education is not to be just for the wealthy. But why should graduates have to pay them back via another stealth tax? If they do, it's just a loan by another name.
Everyone pays for all the public services, even if they only use a subset of them, so why should education be any different?
There is no exactly right answer; but there should be no barriers to higher education based on background or wealth. It may be fair to ask people to pay back the money when they can afford it. Alternatively on the general scale of public spending, it could be considered as a worthwhile investment. After all, its better than paying people to vegetate on the dole.
Students in the US can apply for and get grants to subsidize their higher education
expenses. Grants over here are awarded at the state and
federal level to undergraduate students who qualify financially, regardless of the student's age. They do not cover the entire cost of
attaining a higher education, but they do help with the financial burden.
Naturally some money is lost when a student who receives a grant wastes time and is dismissed from
college, but when compared to the amount of good these grants do for the student who uses his or her
time and opportunity wisely, the investment is sound and well-balanced. In any case, it is the school that
receives the money, so the funds are never really wasted.
Since I graduated, I have been able to move away and get a well-paid job. I have paid back a huge amount more to the government in income tax than I ever had in student grants
Bring back student grants and allow more people to get out of the vicious circle of low incomes. I would probably still be stuck in Devon working in a hotel for £4 an hour if I hadn't had the opportunity of a student grant. I'm glad that I'm not.
Having experienced academic life both in the US and the UK, I think grants should never have been abolished. In the US, many worthy students have to take jobs simply to support themselves, and therefore have less time and energy for their studies as well as crippling loans to repay. In the UK, the attitude when I went to University was that we were being supported to study (albeit at a very modest rate) and our energies and focus went to our academic work. Result: an undergraduate degree in three years rather than four or five, and the country gained the professionals it needs. If, as a society, we believe in higher education, much better that we support it with grants that enable every willing and qualified student to take part, rather than (as in the US) overloading the academic system with middle-class students who don't know what they are studying for, but are expected to go to University regardless.
Education to the highest level you're capable of should be free to all, at all ages, regardless of wealth. It is a human right. Anyone who is capable of, say, passing a bachelor's degree, should be able to do so, and no one should be able to attend any academic institution on the basis of how rich they or their parents are.
If we need graduates, we should be prepared to pay for them.
Student fees and loans are nothing more then a tax on students. I have completed two years at university and I am over £4000 in debt now. Is this really the start I want when I go out to work?
Student loans are supposed to open the door to the less well off, but the assessment assumes that there will be parental support. True, my parents do support me - they feed me and house me and contribute to my outgoings, yet I am still grossly in debt. My brother went through university without having to pay fees and he is debt free. Is this fair?
Loans should be for all, regardless of their parents' income. Around 20 years ago a friend of mine could not go to university as she was only entitled to minimum grant and her parents refused to help.
John Atkins, England
Academic qualifications, not wealth, should be the only determinant of who goes to university. Entry requirements should be raised, the number of available places reduced, and decent grants restored to those from less well-off families. It is ludicrous that someone with Ds and Es at A-level can go to university if they have rich parents while someone with As and Bs cannot go if their parents happen to be poor. Merit, not money, should be the deciding factor.
I believe the abolition of grants and the introduction of fees to be the most unreasonable, short sighted and divisive policy introduced by any government in my lifetime.
It deprives poorer students access to higher education and it deprives the UK of its future scientists, doctors and other highly skilled specialists.
My politics are centre right and I am all for people being totally self supporting, but the current system is patently unfair, stupid and elitist. I would have changed my vote at the general election on this one issue alone.
I could not have had a third level education without a proper grant. As a result I've paid the grant and the fees back in taxes over the last 20 odd years. Getting your grant and fees paid for by the state works when your education gets you a properly paid and productive job. If enough of us do this then it pays for academic research, and degrees for those who may not be prime wealth creators but whose insight is nonetheless a benefit to society, like artists, philosophers and historians.
The situation is now that many cannot afford other than the wealthy and overseas students whose governments pay huge fees. Tony maybe concerned at the low turn out at the last election but young people have no alternatives; vote for one and you're right wing, vote for the other and you're right wing so why bother? Bringing back the grant will show these discouraged students that voting labour is a vote for the working class and those wishing to get out of poverty via education.
The main reason I didn't go to uni was because I couldn't afford to. The day the government got rid of grants was the day they made tertiary education elitist.
In his speech this week, Tony Blair mentioned the great advances he hoped would be brought about by British scientists. Well Tony, it ain't gonna happen until you bring back grants as an incentive for people to study science and increase scientist's pay to keep them there.
I could not have had a third level education without a proper grant. As a result I've paid the grant and the fees back in taxes over the last 20 odd years. Getting your grant and fees paid for by the state works when your education gets you a properly paid and productive job. If enough of us do this then it pays for academic research, and degrees for those who may not be prime wealth creators but whose insight is nonetheless a benefit to society - eg. artists, philosophers, historians.
Duncan Drury, UK
Restore grants for everyone, but if the student drops out, or fails to graduate, then the grants should be reimbursable to the Government in full. This would encourage greater effort in studies.
As a Union Sabbatical Officer working on the "Grants not fees" campaign at Surrey naturally I welcome the announcement as a good step forward. However, as is usually the case, the devil may be in the detail. I'll be much happier when I see more concrete proposals.
However, one big problem universities will now face is that they may be very low on applications next year. With nothing likely to come through before September 2003 I can see a lot of applicants deferring for a year in the hope of getting grants.
If a graduate has worked abroad for good after graduation, then he/she may never need to pay the "education tax". It is unfair to other graduates who stay in the UK.
Mark, London, UK
The problem with funding comes from this government, and previous governments', desires to increase student numbers to levels that can't be afforded. This has also created a dilution of standards and the existence of semi-worthless degrees. If we can prioritise degree academic subjects with respect to their worth to society we can drop some of the "less worthy" courses and full state provision for the remainder should be possible (for example, why are there four times more media students than available media jobs.)
I would just like to point out that on average graduates ALREADY pay an additional tax: higher rate income tax, plus the full NI contribution. To me, this just looks like another one of Gordon Brown's "stealth taxes".
This is an outrageous suggestion. To make the rest of us who have had to work hard to earn the money to go to university suddenly subsidise anyone who wants 3 years of drinking and clubbing whilst getting an irrelevant degree is disgraceful. The point of making people pay for higher education is to discourage those who are not really interested in furthering their knowledge. It prevents the freeloaders who scrounge for as long as possible on state benefits before finally deciding to get a job. I'm still paying of my loans for my education, which includes the fees for tuition and the same should be for everyone.
The return of some form of student grants, and of a graduate tax instead of an immediate debt, would be very welcome. The recent policy of burdening students with huge debts the minute they start their courses has resulted in students doing much low-paid part-time work - to the detriment of their studies.
Delaying the payments for studies until graduates are in a position to pay is a far more responsible approach. It will not only increase the number of people willing to enter Higher Education, it will also improve of the educational experience of those who do enter.
We need a way to give incentives to students through funding based on merit, not elitism, without fuelling student debt or dependency. Means-tested grants and loans have both failed.
When I was a student in 1969 I applied for a student's grant but what I got was not worth the trouble as both parents worked. If all students were independent of parental assistance and applied for a grant then they should sign an agreement that they should spend the next 2-3 years in employment within the UK before taking their newly qualified skills elsewhere.
Shaun, Teignmouth UK
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