Times Higher Education reports that tuition fees at English universities should be waived for students from the poorest households, the Sutton Trust has said.
Ahead of next week’s Budget, the leading education charity has called on the government to reintroduce means-testing for undergraduate tuition fees and revive student maintenance grants, which were scrapped in September 2016.
The call follows the publication of a new report by the trust on 16 November, which suggests that tuition fees should be means-tested based on a student’s household income, with full fee waivers given to students from households earning below £25,000 a year. Students from higher-income households should have to pay a sum based on a stepped system of fees, with those from families earning £100,000 a year having to pay the current full fee level of £9,250 a year, the trust says.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said it was an “absolute scandal that the poorest students graduate with the highest debt”.
However, Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, criticised the proposals “It is wrong that the poorest students currently graduate with the biggest debts, but introducing means-tested tuition fees alongside any new maintenance grants would have an enormous price tag,” said Mr Hillman.
“Means-tested fees mean poor people who end up on big bucks would have a student debt two-thirds lower than other rich graduates,” he added.
The Sutton Trust’s £3.2 billion package of means-tested fees and maintenance loans would slash debt among the 40 per cent of poorest students by 75 per cent, from £51,600 to £12,700, the report says. The changes would also reduce the proportion of graduates never repaying their full loans from 81 per cent to 56 per cent and the proportion of debt not paid back would fall to 35 per cent, it says.
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