It is largely accepted however that this increased debt is largely the result of changes made in 2012 by the Scottish Parliament, when Scottish ministers reduced means tested grants for all accommodation and living costs from £89.4 million to £53 million during the last year and replaced it with the ability to apply for a higher loan. This gives students more money to spend at university but leaves them with more to repay once they graduate.
Despite the increase in overall levels of student debt, some of the changes have been received positively by students. Amanda Strachan, a final year student at the University of Glasgow who was affected by the changes stated that even though her overall debt had increased, the changes had also improved her standard of living. She stated: “I am less concerned about immediate financial problems, because even though my parents income was above the funding band, I largely tried to support myself. Now that I am able to take out a larger loan, I am more independent and worry less about day-to-day costs.”
There are concerns however that the lowest income families, and subsequently students will be negatively affected by the amount of money granted to them in student loans, with the sum total taken out by lower income students predicted to be at an average of around £5,610 a year. Meanwhile, former civil servant Lucy Blackburn spoke to the Guardian and highlighted that students from wealthier families will take out an average of £4,340 in loans, a difference of 29% and stated her concern that the poorest students are carrying the ‘heaviest burden.’
The Glasgow Guardian contacted the University of Glasgow for a comment on the financial aid that is available for students who may require it. A spokesperson for the University stated that: “The University does offer a some discretionary financial assistance for students who are suffering financial hardship. These funds are awarded to students who are experiencing financial difficulties in order for them to continue in Higher Education, and they are designed to help manage the cost of living, including accommodation, childcare costs or additional costs arising from disability or special needs.
It was also highlighted that the University of Glasgow had a severe financial hardship fund available to students in emergency cases: “Where a student is experiencing severe financial hardship, the University also offers short-term emergency support in the form of loans or grants. Full details about all financial aid available to students are published on the University’s website.”