The Scottish Liberal Democrats have criticised the SNP government’s switch from grants to loans for students.
Official figures published today by the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) show that changes to student funding meant that in one year the total paid in bursaries and grants was slashed by £35.7 million.
The total amount authorised in student loans increased to £429.6 million in 2013-14, from £3,110 per student to an average of £5,020 per student.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Liam McArthur said:
“The figures speak for themselves. In the space of one year the total paid in bursaries and grants was slashed by £35.7million, with an overall cut to spending on basic means-tested support for living costs of almost 40%.
“Student loans have increased from £3,110 per student to an average of £5,020 per student.
“This shows that the SNP government’s underhand switch from grants to loans has saddled some of Scotland’s poorest students with higher levels of debt.
“The SNP’s flagship manifesto pledge to ‘dump student debt’ is now sunk.
“Efforts to widen access are also being undermined by the SNP’s retreat from grants and students from poorer backgrounds will rightly want to know why they are being expected to shoulder an ever larger share of overall debt.”
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: ““The figures published today show that we have stood by our pledge to students to continue to oppose fees by providing free tuition and sufficient support to make sure that higher education remains accessible.
“We listened to the National Union of Students when designing the new student support package to help students to access the funds needed to take up places at our universities, through increasing the total awards made to £734.7 million in 2013/14, including a guaranteed minimum income of £7,250 for students from the most deprived areas.
“This minimum income has now been increased for 2014/15 to £7500.”