Call for Island grant system to treat students ‘as individuals’

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STUDENTS and a student-loan support group have urged the government to consider taking a more detailed ‘individual’ approach to personal financial support.

Deputy Inna Gardiner recently announced that maintenance grants would rise by 3.8% in September, in an attempt to help with the rising cost of living, increasing energy bills and travel to and from the UK.

This comes after increases of 2.9% last September and 7.2% in December.

But Jersey’s Student Loan Support Group said that these interim rises were not sustainable and did not take into consideration the situations of individual students.

In a statement, the group said: ‘We know London, for example, is far more expensive than almost anywhere else to live. The current grant doesn’t factor this in.

‘There is also a shortage of student accommodation in some university cities, which has pushed up the cost of accommodation. Travel costs have increased and some destinations are no longer available to fly direct, meaning a train journey on top.

‘Another aspect which has been mentioned several times by our members is the additional maintenance that is given to some groups of students but excludes others.’

One Jersey student, who is currently studying fashion design at Falmouth University, told the JEP she ‘would like the government to look into more detail of the individual student’s life and then apply the grant from there’.

She added: ‘For example [they should consider the] location of the university and rent prices within that certain area, and look into the course the student is doing.’

Medicine, nursing, dentistry and veterinary students can apply for an additional flat-rate grant, but these are not available to those studying to become teachers, paramedics and social workers, who also have placements or extended course dates.

The fashion design student continued: ‘I spend an extra few hundred on fabrics each year in order to provide the basics my module is asking for. I think the government needs to stop seeing students as a number and more as individual people.

‘I found it hard to keep up with the rise in energy bills throughout the past two terms of my final year. The grant covers my course finances and part of my rent, but I still have to work alongside my course to afford everyday bills like food and transport.’

Another commentator, responding to a JEP post about maintenance grants available to students, wrote: ‘Is it sufficient? Nope.’

The SLSG said: ‘It would be useful if all of the allowances and thresholds in the scheme were adjusted annually. That way it would not become out of date and make access to higher education gradually more financially difficult over time. When inflation is running at higher levels, as it is now, the effect is felt more quickly.’

The old maintenance grant scheme, which was replaced in 2018, tailored support to individual students, taking into account where the student studied and the length and type of their course.

‘We understand the old scheme was changed to simplify it, but the consequences have not been helpful to the majority of students,’ the SLSG added.

Deputy Gardiner recently said she would ‘continue to work with officers to look at the system as a whole, and consider how we can provide the most fair, targeted support going forward’.

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