Income of £7,000 required to cut dropout risk

April 24, 2008

Students need a guaranteed minimum income of £7,000 to combat the risk of dropping out through financial hardship, the National Union of Students Scotland has warned.

Findings detailed in the report Scotland's Lost Opportunities, based on the union's survey of more than 2,000 students, were due to be unveiled this week at the Scottish Parliament.

The survey indicates that there is still a dramatic difference in the way that "traditional" middle-class students and non-traditional students (from poorer backgrounds or with no family tradition of higher education) react to financial obstacles.

While over a third of respondents have considered dropping out for financial reasons, non-traditional students were more than twice as likely to have contemplated leaving.

The report speculates that the two groups place different values on education, with traditional students seeing a qualification as more important to their future job prospects, and possibly having easier access to family financial support.

"Our survey has shown that financial hardship is a huge barrier for non-traditional students to overcome," the NUS said, adding that the 1999 Cubie report, which paved the way for the abolition of tuition fees in Scotland, recognised that cash through the grants and loans system fell below the true cost of living.

The union says a minimum £7,000 through a variety of means-tested loans and bursaries would ensure that fewer non-traditional students were threatened by hardship.

The Scottish National Party Government has now scrapped the £2,289 graduate endowment charge.

But, said NUS Scotland president James Alexander, "While Scottish students no longer pay for education directly, other significant financial burdens remain - cost of accommodation, unseen course costs such as (charges) for books and materials, travel and health costs."

olga.wojtas@tsleducation.com.

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