Student debt doubles as grants and bursaries fall

The number of students receiving financial aid is down. Picture: Esme Allen
The number of students receiving financial aid is down. Picture: Esme Allen
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Student bursaries and grants have fallen by almost one third since 2009 and student debt has more than doubled since the SNP came to power, it emerged yesterday

New figures revealed the number of students receiving bursaries and grants has fallen from 69,960 in 2009/10 to 49,815 – a fall of 19,145.

The fall in the number of students receiving cash to study came as debt per year went up from £185.8 million in 2006/07 to £486.3m in 2015/16.

The trends were identified in Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) figures which were released as it was announced the chief executive of Virgin Money, Jayne-Anne Gadhia will lead a review into the effectiveness of student financial support in Scotland.

The figures show the number of students receiving bursaries or grants fell by 4.8 per cent to 49,815 in 2015/16 compared with the previous year, while the total cost increased four per cent to £66.1m.

The number of students taking out loans rose during the same period by 3.4 per cent to 92,005 and the total authorised in loans was £486.3m, a 3.7 per cent increase from 2014/15.

The average loan per student in 2015/16 was £5290, up £20 on the previous year.

The number of full-time higher education students receiving financial support from SAAS rose 1.2 per cent to 141,000 and the total paid out in loans and grants increased 3.1 per cent to £805.8m.

One in 10 of those being given grants or loans were from the European Union and the 14,705 students received a total of £28m. Shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “These are hugely worrying figures, and show that the SNP has slashed bursary support in recent years. At a time when we should be doing all we can to close Scotland’s attainment gap, the SNP has chosen to cut the money given to those who need it most.

Labour education spokesman, Iain Gray, said: “We welcome this long promised review into student support in Scotland, and will engage constructively with the chair going forward.

“Jayne-Anne Gadhia has a huge task on her hands however, because of years of broken SNP promises on student support. Figures released today show that there almost 20,000 fewer students are receiving grants and bursaries than at the beginning of the last parliament. Meanwhile student debt – which the SNP came to power promising to abolish – has soared under the SNP government.”

But Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Science, said: “We are committed to reviewing student support to make sure the system is fair and effective.”