BURSARY SYSTEM NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE.
Byline: ANDY PHILIP
STUDENT leaders yesterday slammed the SNP, accusing them of failing people from poorer backgrounds.
MSPs heard the loans and grants system is "unfit for purpose" and leaves students struggling to get by.
The National Union of Students called for better grants and a shift away from loans. NUS Scotland president Vonnie Sandlan raised her concerns with Holyrood's education committee.
She said: "We believe that, although we are very supportive of the Scottish Government's continued protection of FE student support, the current system is unfit for purpose. It leaves far too much uncertainty for students."
Sandlan criticised leeway in the system which allows colleges to pay a bursary at 80 per cent of the guideline level. She explained: "You could have two students studying the same course in two colleges that are five miles apart and they will be receiving 20 per cent of a difference if they receive a bursary.
"We really do need to see a redress in that balance between loans and grants, and increased grants for the poorest students in particular."
MSPs heard how the average grant and bursary payout fell from PS1860 to PS1220 between 2012-13 and 2014-15.
Colleges Scotland told how the level of bursaries available has dropped and been replaced by an increasing loan component. If a student wants the maximum bursary, they have to first take out a loan of PS5750.
But Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, added: "There is a problem of debt aversion."
PROBLEM Alastair Sim