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Blow to students as loan rise dwarfed by inflation

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The Government has announced that student maintenance loans – the money students are expected to live on while at university – will rise by 2.8% in 2023/24.

But this is well below the current rate of inflation which stands at 10.7% – leaving students worse off in real terms. Maintenance loans went up by just 2.3% in 2022/23, despite double-digit inflation. 

Tom Allingham, money expert at Save the Student, said: “The 2023/24 maintenance loan rates are a devastating blow to struggling students, who will now see their battle with the cost-of-living crisis intensify next year.

“Our 2022 National Student Money Survey found that the shortfall between the average maintenance loan and the average cost of living is now a staggering £439 every month – an increase of £99 in 2021, and £216 in 2020.

“With Universal Credit and State Pension rates both rising with inflation, and students unable to benefit from the vast majority of the government’s extra cost of living support, this is yet another example of those in power willfully ignoring the needs of young people in higher education.”

Save the Student is calling on the Government to urgently review the student loan decision and increase maintenance funding above and beyond the rate of inflation to account for years of insufficient growth.

Financial package for struggling students

The increase to maintenance loans was announced alongside a £15m financial package to help students struggling with costs during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Under the plans, students in need could be eligible for additional financial support designed to ease cost-of-living pressures and help them to meet everyday costs while at university.

The government said it is providing the additional funding so that universities can provide extra support to students who need it most.

Universities are responsible for ensuring students who need help get the support they need, including through their own hardship funds, or through bursaries and scholarships. Many universities have stepped up their efforts this year by offering new schemes to support students, the Government said. 

For example, the University of Southampton has made a total of £1.1m in the current academic year available to students to cover emergency costs, while Queen Mary University of London has a bursary scheme for students whose family’s annual taxable income is below £20,000. 

Meanwhile, the University of York is giving £150 to student households who are finding it difficult to pay their bills. 

Minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, Robert Halfon, said: “We recognise students continue to face financial challenges, which is why we are increasing loans and grants for living and other costs for a further year. For the sixth year in a row, we have frozen tuition fees for a full-time undergraduate course at a maximum of £9,250 which will reduce the initial amount of debt students will take on.

“To support universities to top up their own hardship funds we are also making an additional £15m available. This will bring the total available to universities to draw on in supporting their students in hardship to £276m this academic year.

“I’m really pleased to see that so many universities are already stepping up efforts to support their students through a variety of programmes. These schemes have already helped students up and down the country and I urge anyone who is worried about their circumstances to speak to their university.”