Summer support for students
The University of Glasgow at Gilmorehill in the city.
By Democrat reporter
Students facing hardship this summer due to COVID-19 can now receive financial support within a package of new measures.
The Scottish Government has brought forward early access to £11.4 million of discretionary funds – support for higher education students in financial difficulty – to be administered by colleges and universities.
Unlike continuing higher education students, most former further education students can receive benefits if they are unemployed. Colleges will now have flexibility to offer discretionary funds to bridge the timing gap between bursary payments ending in June and Universal Credit payments starting.
Scottish students studying in Europe as part of EU Portability or historically arranged schemes will be able to access a £100,000 emergency fund administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
SAAS has also suspended all new debt recovery actions in respect to grants and bursaries until September for students whose circumstances have changed and may have to return ove-payments. Students are encouraged to contact SAAS to discuss what help is available.
West of Scotland College at Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire.
Minister for Further, Higher Education and Science Richard Lochhead said: “Given the economic impact of COVID-19, many continuing students who rely on seasonal and part-time jobs in the summer could find it difficult to cover their basic housing or cost of living costs.
“No student should face financial hardship as a result – so these new measures will support students until the start of the next academic year when bursary, grant and loan payments will begin again.
“We are now bringing forward £11.4 million in support for higher education students in financial difficulty that was not due to be available until the new academic year. This builds on our £5 million support plan for FE and HE students announced in April.
“The UK Government package announced on 4 May for higher education providers and students was disappointing, and fell short of recognising the full scale of the challenge.”
Responding to the government’s announcement of support higher education students in financial difficulty, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie commented: “Many students will find the coronavirus has hit their finances and their chances of getting summer work.
“The government has made a good start on expanding support but we need to go much further. SAAS is a familiar and easily accessed support system. Students in need are more likely to approach them than to embark on applications to a separate hardship fund.
“We want this money to get to people who are struggling swiftly and seamlessly. SAAS is the best vehicle to do that. I urge ministers to extend SAAS payments through the summer months.”