The Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Coventry South Jim Cunningham challenged Prime Minister David Cameron on the scrapping of the student maintenance grants and alleged plans to abolish the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA).
Cunningham, MP for Coventry South since 1992, used his first question of this Parliament to ask questions about student funding. This followed a letter from Isaac Leigh, president at the Students’ Union, to Mr Cunningham which raised concerns over the removal of the grant.
Mr Cunningham highlighted that cuts to the education budget would be detriment to Conservative ambitions of improving the highly skilled economy.
Cameron replied to this by pointing to government plans on delivering five million new apprenticeships by 2020 as well as the record number of students, especially those from low-income households, going to university.
Plans to convert the maintenance grant for poorer students to loans were first announced in July of this year by Chancellor George Osborne as part of a package of £12 billion of welfare cuts.
Currently, students from low income household families can claim up to a maximum of £3,387in maintenance grants.
The controversial cuts to the DSA were first announced to come into motion this year but have since been postponed until 2017.
Lilya Anderson, first-year PAIS student, described the cuts as “damaging to our economy but also detrimental for those who wish to continue their education and simply, through pure luck, do not have the financial capability to do so.
She added: “Your financial situation should never be something that can prevent you from furthering your education.”
Becky Gittins, third-year Politics student and Chair of Warwick Labour, echoed Cunningham’s concerns: “If the abolition of maintenance grants wasn’t enough to discourage students from low income backgrounds from attending university, now another underrepresented group in the university system is having their opportunities quashed unnecessarily. Disabled students incur many costs other than the ones being considered in the government’s decision…
“The unconsidered costs of caring staff, mobility devices and more expensive accommodation, in some cases, are a crucial element of the debate which is going unaccounted for.
She added: “I am proud that Jim Cunningham MP honoured the disabled students in his constituency and raised this issue in parliament with such passion and genuine conviction.”
James Anderson, Chairman of the University of Warwick Conservative Association argued: “It is a common misconception that scrapping maintenance grants will affect and deter those from low income households from attending university.”
“The increase in maintenance loans themselves will actually mean that more students will be able to afford more than just paying for household rent, and spend more money on other living costs like food and travel”
He added: “These are welcome changes and mean that university education can become more widely accessible for those who wish to take on higher education, and not just restricted to those households that can easily support students while at university.”