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MPs back plans to scrap grants as survey highlights parents' concerns

A parliamentary committee has backed government plans to scrap maintenance grants and replace them with loans, as student finance campaigners and Labour politicians accused ministers of introducing the change through the back door by refusing a full House of Commons vote on the move.
The committee's decision, which will be followed by a debate in the House of Lords, came as new research  highlighted parents' concerns over the government's plan to scrap maintenance grants and the impact it may have on their children's interest in applying to university. 
Commenting on the government blocking a full Commons debate, Chris Bryant, the shadow Commons leader, accused ministers of back tracking on a promise to offer MPs a vote on the changes. “Because it’s in committee, even if every single member of the committee were to vote against the motion it would still pass into law," he said.

Meanwhile a survey of parents with children aged 18 and under and with a household income of £25,000 or less, conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) with Populus, found that two fifths believe their children will be discouraged from applying to university if grants are replaced with loans.

Over half of parents surveyed believe the plan to scrap grants undermines the government’s objective to increase access to university for poorer students. 

NUS has repeatedly criticised the government’s handling of the plans, including the failure to properly investigate concerns over the impact of scrapping grants. It says that even under the threat of legal action, the government has refused to fully release their assessment on how the plan will affect students from widening participation backgrounds.
The NUS survey found 55 per cent of all parents and 60 per cent of parents with a combined income of less than £25,000 believe replacing maintenance grants with loans would undermine the government’s objective to increase access to university for people from poorer backgrounds. Nearly two thirds of all parents and 70 per cent of parents from low income households believe it is unfair students from poorer backgrounds may have to take out loans up to £12,000 more than they currently do. Over half (51 per cent) of all parents and 56 per cent of low income parents believe if students from poorer backgrounds have to take out an extra £12,000 in loans it will be bad for the long term prospects of our economy.
The government is also planning to replace the NHS bursary with loans. Thousands of student nurses and midwives marched in protest on 10 January and half of all parents surveyed believe the removal of the bursary will discourage people in their families from studying nursing. 

Megan Dunn, NUS national president, said: “The government has continually denied the scrapping of maintenance grants would negatively affect students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. This is just not true. Our research shows it’s not just students but their whole families who have serious concerns about these changes. Parents, particularly those with lower incomes, can see how damaging scrapping grants will be for their children's futures."