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College students' financial support halved

24 August 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Poorest students set to receive just half of last year's financial support • Only a quarter of colleges have posted financial support packages on their websites • UCU warns students risk being left in limbo after government dithering on EMA replacement

The average financial support package for further education college students is £633.79 a year - just half of what they would have received last year - according to a survey of the largest colleges in England by UCU.
Under the education maintenance allowance (EMA), which was abolished by the government earlier this year, the poorest students received £30 a week - a total of £1,170 a year.

UCU trawled the websites of England's biggest colleges and found that, with colleges reeling from the changes, only 14 of the 51 it examined had posted full details of their financial support packages.
The union said its worrying snapshot exposed the 'utter chaos' axing the EMA had created and that it was college students, many about to receive their GCSE results, who risked being left in limbo or struggling to stay in education.
The union said colleges had been placed in a very difficult position following the axing of the EMA and the government dithering over its replacement. UCU said the government had not given colleges enough notice of what the new system would look like or any proper indication of what funding they were likely to receive. To add to the confusion, individual colleges can now have their own eligibility criteria.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The decision to axe the EMA has been a complete disaster and the ramifications for colleges and students continue to be felt. The government's dithering over the EMA replacement and, its failure to give colleges a clear indication of what funding would be available, has created utter chaos.
'What is clear is that the poorest students will not receive the money so many say is vital to staying in education. The EMA was a successful scheme that helped young people stay in education and the government was completely wrong to scrap it, particularly without having given any thought to what may replace it.'
Last year over 600,000 students received the EMA, with 80% (those whose household income is less than £20,800) receiving the full £30 weekly allowance. A survey of EMA recipients, published earlier this year, revealed that 70% said they would drop out of college if the financial aid was removed.
The full table of colleges' support packages is available from the UCU press office.