By Darlynn Nab
Students at The University of Sheffield say they ‘fear for the future of diversity’ at the institution if the government presses ahead with student loan reform plans.
The government’s proposed changes include altering the financial threshold meaning graduates will have to start paying back their student loans earlier.
Students will begin repaying their loans once they earn £25,000 or above as opposed to the current £27,295, meaning repayments will cut into their wages earlier.
Olivia Cole, 19, a politics and international relations student at the University of Sheffield, said: “I think this is rooted in classism and it will disadvantage students that will not have the opportunity to go to university.”
The reforms also mean loans, which can currently be written off if they are not paid after 30 years, won’t be written off until 40 years after students start repayments.
Miss Cole said: “This is going to discourage a lot of students from going to university especially those from working class backgrounds and I think having to pay a high portion of your salary won’t be feasible especially when you consider the increase in living costs in the country.”
The government’s plans also prevent students who fail to achieve a minimum C grade at GCSE in both English and Maths, and two minimum E grades at A-Level from applying for a student loan.
Chitontozo Muteto, 18, president of the African Caribbean Society at the University of Sheffield, said: “I believe that barring certain students who don’t meet grade requirements from further education is counter productive.
“Many students have poor disadvantaged GCSEs not due to intelligence but due to disparities in the level of secondary school education they received, meaning these student loans reinforce discrimination against the disadvantaged rather than fixing the issue at hand.”
Students also have concerns the reforms will disproportionately affect the diversity of those coming from minority and underrepresented backgrounds in the UK.
Miss Muteto said: “Minority ethnics were able to access equal opportunity with the aid of student loans, lower grade requirements and less discrimination ory during the interview process.
“With the new reform targeting mostly students from lack of good education areas, particularly areas where the majority of ethnic minorities live, the diversity of students attending university will fall down, rapidly I fear.”
The Department for Education (DfE) said the proposals were still being considered and no final decisions had been made.
“Our consultation is inviting views not on how we close doors but on how we ensure that there are many routes to improve a person’s career and life opportunities – whether that is ensuring students are best prepared for university through a foundation year or helping them pursue an apprenticeship or further education,” a DfE spokesman said.