STUDENTS from the poorest backgrounds will benefit from a boost in available cash to support them in their studies as the government ups funding to more than £7000.
South Ayrshire has a strong record for ex-pupils going into higher education, with nearly half of school leavers destined for university last year – the sixth highest figure of Scotland’s 73 parliamentary constituencies.
But despite that the area is home to some of the most deprived small towns in the country, Girvan and Maybole featuring among the top ten of a list of 90.
From next year however, students whose family income is less than £17,000 a year will be able to claim up to £7250 in bursaries and loans – up nearly £1000 from the £6380 maximum previously and in addition to already free tuition.
And what is more the figure will not be linked to grant entitlement, which has seen students lose out under the current system as loan levels decrease with grant eligibility on a sliding scale.
Financial support for part-time students earning less than £25,000 will also be levelled with that of their full-time peers - at a time when an estimated four in ten students are enrolled on part-time courses - while all students will be able to claim up to £4500 in student loan payments regardless of their parental income.
Education Secretary Mike Russell said: “Improved availability of loans and equal support for part-time students, alongside free tuition, will help ensure that all those with potential can go to university and achieve their goals, in turn playing a key role in improving our economy in years to come.”
He estimated around 4500 students a year would benefit from the changes, and said they would make Scotland’s the best funding package available in the UK.
National Union of Students President, Robin Parker, said the news was “very welcome”.
“We’ve always said that getting an education should be about your ability, not your ability to pay,” he said. “We need to provide enough support to students in order to get to get the most out of our most talented people, and we hope these announcements will do just that.”
What is your reaction to this story? How will the changes to financial support for students affect you or a member of your family? You can comment on this story here, Tweet us at @CarrGaz, or contact us using the ‘contact us’ tab at the foot of this page.
You can find out more about the plans at www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/08/student-support22082012