Poorer students in England may be put off university by funding changes that could leave them with higher debts than middle-class graduates helped by their parents, a report says. The Sutton Trust’s commission on fees looked at Budget changes such as replacing means-tested grants with loans and tying fees to inflation.
It also calls for a full investigation of the student finance system. Ministers say students will have more cash for living costs under the plan. The trust – which advocates social mobility through education – set up the Independent Commission on Fees in 2012 to monitor the effect of higher tuition fees.
This report comes after Chancellor George Osborne announced he was scrapping means-tested maintenance loans for poorer students and allowing universities to increase fees in line with inflation – if they demonstrate excellent teaching.
The commission contends that linking tuition fees to inflation could see them rise to £10,000 a year by 2020.
It examines the higher education finance system for England, which allows universities to charge maximum yearly tuition fees of £9,000. These are paid upfront, government-backed loans with repayments beginning once the graduate starts earning £21,000 a year.
The report says poor students could rack up loans of about £53,000 for a three-year course once the new maintenance loans are included. It is assumed that students from richer homes would be helped financially by their parents.