University is a pivotal point in every student’s life. It is the point that you are finally given independence and recognition as an adult; the point you finally begin to live away from your parents; the point in which 18 years of education finally begin to shape towards a career.

However, this starting-line isn’t straight. Governmental failure in regards to the highly controversial student loans is leading to lines being drawn in the sand between supposedly ‘high-income’ and ‘low-income’ students.

As with all of my articles, I stress the impartiality of what I write and feel I should make it clear that I am, once again, playing devil’s advocate to what many consider to be a fairly straightfoward system.

By favouring ‘low-income’ students, the government is ripping open a divide causing harm to both sides of this conflict.

Stealing from the poor to give to the poor.

Nobody is wealthy at university. Any student will know that everyone is in the same boat. This is a fact that seems some-what forgotten by the general public outside of campus.

Parental income does not equate to student income.

Hindering a student based on their parental income equates to increasing the tax-bracket on somebody based on the success of their sibling.

Current maintenance loan payouts for students are based on parental income – with anybody who’s parents earn over £62,500 a year gaining a total minimum loan of £3,375. People who’s parents earn £25,000 or less are given £7,125, half of which is a grant and non-repayable. On top of this, there are several additional grants. Any student who’s parents are elegible to claim income support or a form of housing benefit, and any student who’s parents are divorced, is eligible to receieve non-repayable grants.

It is also worth noting, these loans and grants are based on parental income before beginning university. If, during the course of the studies, the parental income were to drop or increase, it wouldn’t change the loan. This has left many students in diffiult situations after parents have retired or lost their jobs.

More controversially, gender and parental income can prevent students from being able to claim bursaries and scholarships for academic success.

Students who have ‘well-off’ parents can be excluded from claiming bursaries for being academically successful.

This can lead to such inequalities on campus, and I know because i’ve seen it, that you can have two students living in the same accomodation, with the same living expenses and studying the same course: one will have a total maintenance budget of over £15,000, only £3,875 of it that needs paying back; the other will have a total maintenance budget of £3,375, all of it a loan. Student A can cover all their living costs and costs of studying, can avoid getting a part-time job (allowing for further time to study), and still have plenty of ‘disposable income’ left to splash around. Student B can barely afford to pay their living expenses: including food, rent, insurance, council tax, costs of study, electricity, internet, and more; has to work, and lives a far unhealthier lifestyle.

The woes of the ‘wealthy’.

I can already hear the mob hysteria awakening. I can see the pitch-forks glimmering and can imagine the angry responses of: “Students with less money should get a job!”, “They are just jealous!”, “They complain about having a more comfortable life!”, “Life is unfair!”.

My response? These students don’t complain. They simply get a part-time job, focus on their studies and get on with things without complaining. In-part, this is due to not being represented, and in-part due to knowing that nothing will change.

This isn’t a matter of tackling petty jealousy and providing equality. This is a matter of principle, a matter of creating the right mindset in young people before they even go out into the world.

By making things harder for students from supposedly ‘wealthier’ backgrounds, the government is providing several negative messages:

  • Their parents were wrong to be successful.
  • ‘Poorer’ students deserve more than them.
  • Working hard won’t get you anywhere.
  • They are lesser students because their family is not wanting.
  • Socialism, social democracy and income-equality movements are unfair.
  • ‘Poorer’ students get things easy and sponge off of the tax-payer.

There are clear political-lines being drawn here that should be avoided at such an age.

At 18, students (one of the poorest demographics in society) should not be shown the blunt end of left-wing ‘justice’.

Not to mention, in many cases, this inequality causes serious financial issues.

Parents with higher-levels of income are expected to support their children as they go through university. However, there are a number of holes in this logic that create problems. The loans and grants are based on gross-income, not net. They don’t factor into account living costs; someone earning £70,000 a year living in London is going to have far less disposable-income than someone earning the same but living in Yorkshire. They don’t factor into account the amount of children at university – having a sibling, or multiple, can rack up large costs to the parent should they choose to support.

Furthermore, as aforementioned, they don’t factor into account financial changes. Levels of maintenance loans are calculated by looking at parental income several months prior to the first year at university for a student. At any point between then and the end of the course, income could dramatically change and yet the loan would remain the same.

Not to mention, there is no obligation for the parent to support the student. It is nothing more than an expectation. It is the student’s choice to attend university; many parent’s see it as the student’s responsibility to pay for it. Many ‘wealthier’ families got their success through hard work, without financial support from their own parents, and would no-doubt wish to brand the same ethos onto their own children.

In extreme cases, the costs might actually stop many students from attending university. More-so the middle-class, many families may consider the cost of a medical degree to be too high and look for less ambitious alternatives.

Misguiding the ‘unfortunate’.

The ironically named ‘wealthy’ students aren’t the only ones to experience a backlash from this.

Just as the government is promoting the wrong messages to ‘high-income’ students, they are doing similar with their opposite.

‘Poorer’ students are being provided a cost-free living with no obligations attached. They are being rewarded for their parents having lower incomes; groomed to feel safe in the knowledge that the government will provide for them if they don’t succeed. They are being led towards comfort in benefits.

With the ‘higher-income’ students working to pay their rent, and the ‘lower-income’ students getting paid to study by the government, we see a clear divide. The ‘lower-income’ students are far more likely to think that they do not need to work; that things can be provided for free and they don’t need to put in any effort.

They are being subtly coerced into thinking that they don’t need to work for a comfortable life; tricked into being chained to the same levels of income as their parents.

As opposed to elevating students to an equal starting block, this backwards system is weighing all students down with its many flaws.

This is a system that is discouraging work, encouraging divorce and punishing success.

Maybe it’s time for a change? Maybe the answer is to make the grants into loans, or to stop limiting bursaries and scholarships for the ‘higher-income’ students?

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