This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post
All eligible Welsh undergraduate students starting university this year will be able to apply for a financial support package that, for the first time, will address living costs.
The package, which has been introduced by Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, is the first of its kind in the UK.
It will support students when they need it the most, recognising that costs such as accommodation are the main barrier to those making the choice about whether to go to university.
Whilst the UK Government ended maintenance grants in England, this new arrangement being brought in by Kirsty, will give more help towards living costs by providing the equivalent of the National Living Wage through a mix of non-repayable grants and loans.
This means that students can focus on their studies rather than worry about making ends meet. And it gives the same opportunities to part-time students as those enjoyed by people studying full-time. Postgraduate students will also be eligible for support.
Every eligible student can claim a minimum grant of £1,000 they will not have to pay back, regardless of their household income. Students from homes with lower household incomes will receive the highest grant of up to £10,124 in London and £8,100 in the rest of the UK. Students who receive a smaller means-tested grant can access a loan to top it up.
The average household income for a dependent student in the current system is around £25,000. Under the new system such a student will receive around £7,000 a year in a grant they won’t need to pay back.
This has been done to encourage students from all backgrounds to enter higher education, whether they are in full time work, raising a family or have caring responsibilities.
Living costs must not be a barrier to going to university. Everyone who has the talent, potential and ambition should have that opportunity. Whether it is studying full-time or combining it with your career and studying part-time, university should be an option for everyone, no matter what your background or income.