The cost of a person going on to Higher Education has always been a factor. In the past it was far easier to afford, but with the Government allowing Universities to triple tuition fees, this has made attending a University unaffordable to many families.
This issue has been raised by Cornwall Council’s Children’s Education and Families Scrutiny Committee (CSF OSC), and the Cabinet of Cornwall Council has also been well aware of the problem. The council has started to address this by making money available for travelling cost for students.
Now, the council is taking a further step (and a big step it is) in the right direction in addressing the issue of making more affordable. The council is proposing to introduce a scheme which could, if approved, start in 2014. Initially £1m will come from existing resources to support the scheme in the first year, rising to £3m in 2016 / 2017. I am told the council is looking at funding sources post 2017.
So how will the scheme work? Well, for a start, you need to be a resident of Cornwall for three years to qualify. If you meet the criteria, a pre paid card will be supplied which they can use to pay for an agreed range of goods and services that support the costs of learning and the hidden costs of studying at university. The amount of the payment has still to be confirmed,, but the current recommendation is for this to be set at £30. This can be topped up by parents, guardians and other family members. To be honest, whilst an one-off payment of £30 is nice, it is hardly going to make going to University more affordable. I feel it is a token gesture.
However, the real good news is students with a household income up to £42,600 can also apply for additional financial support from two further strands of funding. Both these areas of funding are discretionary and will be subject to several specific criteria, which includes the type of course to be studied (there will be a strong focus on economic priority subjects) and place of study, with funding specifically targeted towards students applying for the more selective universities and courses.
The two additional discretionary strands are:
- Widening Participation – open to any student attending a non Sutton Trust 30 institution who meets the eligibility criteria. Eligible students will be able to apply for up to £1,200 per student living away from home (£900 per student living at home) over three years.
- Raising Aspiration – open to any student attending a Sutton Trust 30 institution, who meets the eligibility criteria. Eligible students will be able to apply for £3,000 over three years.
I feel these two schemes will really make a difference in helping attending University more affordable. Of course it will not cover all the costs, but it will take the pressure off families who may struggle to find the extra money to help their children attend a University.
The proposed scheme will be discussed by members of the Council’s Children, Education and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee (which I am a member of) on 13th July. Their views will then be reported to the Council’s Cabinet which will make the final decision. If approved (no doubt it will be) it is expected to support up to 4,000 students per year. Mature students will also qualify for these schemes which is a sensible step too.
So well done Cornwall Council in taking the lead in trying to solve this problem. Maybe other authorities will copy Cornwall Council, so other students in other areas will find attending University more affordable.