Getting poorer by degrees

September 1, 1995

Do Scottish students drop out or not take up courses because of hardship or lack of support? The THES asked some. A Scottish helpline to match Highers results against course vacancies has revealed growing concern among school-leavers about student hardship.

Rose McKendry, organiser of the ten-day Stirling University helpline staffed by careers advisers, said that around 15 per cent of the 6,300 callers had asked about funding.

"The reality was hitting them as they found out they had got a place. It was only once they had filled in the grant form that they realised how little the grant was, and how much their accommodation was going to be," she said.

Some fifth-year leavers, who might have considered staying on for a sixth year, were taking a year out to earn some money before going into higher education, she said. "A lot are worried about getting into debt straight away, and see the student loan as that."

Some pupils were deciding against going into higher education because of the expense, she said. While most callers still want to take up a university or college place, increasing numbers were contemplating staying at home to cut costs.

Keith Robson, deputy president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said financial hardship was exacerbated north of the border because of the four-year honours degree.

"There's an extra Christmas, an extra summer in which you have to try to find a part-time job and keep on accommodation. It does all mount up," he said.

"Meanwhile, the grant has been cut by another 10 per cent, and while the Government would argue it's increasing the loan, people don't want to take on more debt."

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