‘Loss of student funding will hit the least well off’

More than half the students at Grantham College received the EMA before it was scrapped.
More than half the students at Grantham College received the EMA before it was scrapped.

STUDENT numbers in Grantham could plummet following the decision to scrap a scheme to help keep young people from low-earning families into higher education.

MPs have voted to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance which pays students from low-income families up to £30 a week to go to college.

Grantham College principal Linda Houtby says the decision will hit the poorest hardest, with more than half the students at her college receive the allowance.

She said: “We are in a recession and I understand budgets are being cut across the board but what is the point of limiting people’s ability to go to college and get skills to get into employment and contribute to the economy getting better?

“It is cutting them off before they can go down that road.”

Students can no longer apply for the EMA with immediate effect but students currently receiving the allowance will continue to do so for the rest of the academic year.

The decision will mean many students will their allowance mid-way through their studies.

The loss of funding could be made worse if a county council proposal which would significantly increase travel costs goes ahead.

Linda said: “The county council is proposing to increase three-fold the cost of subsidised travel cards for young people - raising the cost to around £390 per year.

“With the cuts in their budget I am not unsympathetic and I know they have no statutory duty to provide the subsidy but along with the loss of the EMA it is a problem.”

Some see the EMA as an unnecessary incentive, while others have criticised the scheme as it does not limit what the money can be spent on. However, Linda hit back at the suggestion students spend their allowance on computer games, saying the money more often than not is spent on travel costs.

She added: “At the moment 56 per cent of our students get the EMA and most get the full allowance of £30 per week. It shows a lot of students are already coming from low-income families who would seriously struggle to get their sons and daughters to college in the first place.

“My main worry is that the least well off will be the most affected.”

l Through the EMA scheme, students from families earning up to £21,817 received £30 a week, families with incomes between £21,818 and £25,521 received £20 a week, and families with incomes of between £25,522 and £30,810 received £10 a week.

l What do you think of the decision to scrap the EMA? Was it an unnecessary extravagance or a vital lifeline? E-mail: comment@granthamjournal.co.uk