Poor students rush for advice

September 22, 1995

Scottish Citizens Advice Bureaux have seen a marked increase in students with financial problems, according to a report this week. Poverty by Degrees says: "Bureaux throughout Scotland have reported anecdotally that their numbers have significantly increased over the last years. Many are facing serious debt problems. This type of enquiry did not feature for this client group in previous years."

The report gives examples of students faced with various problems. A student with a medical problem: "A Strathclyde CAB reports of a client who was entitled to free prescriptions for the last six months of 1994. Now the client is only entitled to limited help based on his apparent income. This is because the full amount of a student loan is taken into any calculation regardless of whether a loan has been taken out by the student. This effectively puts all students out of the range of free prescriptions."

A student who failed his exams: "A Highlands CAB reports of a client who is returning to college in two months to resit a year. He is no longer entitled to a grant, yet will not be able to get a job to support himself, nor receive benefit."

A student faced with late grant payment: "A Strathclyde CAB reports of a client who is awaiting payment of his grant. He has been advised that the grant office will process his application soon, but meantime the bank has refused the student an overdraft and he has been writing cheques on an empty account."

And a student whose parents cannot help: "A Lothian CAB reports of a client whose mother can no longer afford to keep him at home at the end of his first academic year. He receives Pounds 1,500 grant and has a full student loan. He does not know if he will be able to continue his studies."

Poverty by Degrees: Students - the evidence of CAB clients in Scotland is available from Citizens Advice Scotland, 0131 667 0156.

* Student debt has rocketed 39 per cent this past year, according to The PUSH Guide to Which University 96. It estimates that the proportion of students dropping out or failing their degrees has fallen but is still more than one in eight students.

The guide argues that the average student debt is now Pounds 1,0 per year of study, with some universities such as Leeds averaging as much as Pounds 3,000 a year. Liz Hodgen of Leeds student union said that some medical students could have this level of debt.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals dismissed the PUSH Guide as unreliable, saying for instance, that it omitted data on medical students and ignored the complex issue of people on 2+2 degrees, where many students left after completing an HND. Failure rates ought to be considered not by institution but by subject, it said.

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