IFS: Student loan change in England will hit the poor and ethnic minorities hardest | Students

Young people from low-income families or ethnic minorities are most likely to miss out on a college education if the government goes ahead with plans to restrict student loans in England, a study has found.

Almost one in four recent undergraduates who received free school meals (FSM) at the age of 16 would not be able to obtain student loans under the government’s proposals, the Institute has revealed. tax studies (IFS).

The government’s planned reforms to the student loans system in England include blocking access to applicants who do not achieve at least a 4 or C in English and GCSE maths.

But IFS found that the policies being consulted may effectively ban a high proportion of students from poorer families, as well as many black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students.

“A minimum requirement for general eligibility would have a disproportionate impact on students who have not had the same opportunities and support to reach the threshold of success, and would lead to a widening of socio-economic gaps in access to education. ‘university,” said Laura van der Erve, an IFS Senior Research Economist and author of the research.

The study found that around 23% of black undergraduate students at English universities would not have been able to qualify for student loans if the government had chosen to use the GCSE benchmark, along with around 13% of students from undergraduate of Bangladeshi and Pakistani descent. But the minimum grades would have affected only 7% of undergraduate white British students.

The IFS said the impact would be reduced if the requirement was for pupils leaving school to have at least two Es at A level or equivalent. Only 5% of undergraduate students currently on FSM would have been affected, although they would still be disproportionately affected compared to other groups.

The researchers noted that while students who did not achieve the minimum qualifications offered perform lower than their peers, nearly 80% still graduate and around 40% graduate with a first-class or second-class degree. superior.

The IFS also found that the requirements would restrict applicants to courses where graduates are in high demand by employers.

Elaine Drayton, author of the research, said the GCSE minimum grade was a ‘blunt tool’ to reduce student numbers: ‘While it would remove access to student loans for low-income course applicants such as creative arts and communications, it would greatly reduce having an impact on certain high-return subjects, such as business and computer science.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said the proposals were still under consideration and no final decision had been made.

“Our consultation invites opinions not on how we close doors, but on how we ensure there are many avenues to improve a person’s career and life opportunities – whether it’s whether it is to ensure that students are better prepared for university during a preparatory year or to help them pursue further learning or training,” the DfE said.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has tried to reinvigorate government efforts to push through a bill making free speech mandatory on campuses in England.

In a speech to the conservative Policy Exchange think tank, Donelan claimed that a “little cabal of bigots” were increasingly threatening academic freedom at universities.

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On Monday, the government decided to postpone its Higher Education Freedom of Speech Bill until the next parliamentary session, after the bill had been stalled at report stage since September last year.

The bill requires universities and student unions to use a free speech code of practice and protect free speech within the law for students, staff and guest lecturers. It also establishes a new complaints system to be administered through a new role with the Office for Students, the higher education regulator.

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