GCSE maths student Hamza Ahmed says plans to consider minimum grade requirements for student loans are “soul crushing”.
On Thursday, the government unveiled its response to the Augar review of higher education (HE) funding.
A new consultation will consider whether students without at least a GCSE pass in English and maths or two A levels of grade E should access student loans.
“It’s overwhelming, honestly,” Hamza told Sky News. “If I don’t pass, I’m told I have to do it again. It really makes me feel like I can’t accomplish certain things right now.”
“I would love to go to college. I feel like it’s an experience and I also get the education. It doesn’t matter if it takes years to learn when you want to. As long as you you’re on this path to understanding, it’s okay.”
The government said 4,800 students without GCSE maths and English passes entered higher education last year (excluding mature students who would be exempt from the change).
The University and College Admissions Service says its modeling shows disadvantaged students would fare the worst if the change were to take place.
“Minimum entry requirements are not a new concept – people are already applying to university with their GCSEs and A-Levels,” said UCAS executive director John Cope.
“Students shouldn’t worry – it won’t happen right away, but at UCAS we’ve done some modeling of what that impact could be and we know that disadvantaged students are more likely not to meet the minimum entry requirements.
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University and Colleges Union general secretary Jo Grady slammed the plans, saying they were an ‘attack’ on poorer students and ‘goes against the upgrading agenda’. level”.
“We’ve seen during the pandemic that people from more affluent backgrounds benefit the most from grade inflation, with private schools playing the system,” Ms Grady said.
“Eligibility requirements threaten to make this situation worse, creating enormous pressure on schools and colleges to inflate grades to get their students into college, and further widening the gap between private and public schools.”
The proposals also seek to change student loan repayments so that they start at a lower salary threshold of £25,000 from 2023/24, and students will repay loans over 40 years instead of 30.
Ms Grady says it forces young people to make “a diabolical bargain, to go into lifelong debt in an effort to improve their chances in life”.
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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the changes to entry requirements resembled “removing a ladder rather than moving up a level”.
“We welcome the moves to reduce student loan interest rates and understand the need to address the size of the student loan portfolio,” Barton said.
“However, this comes with a sting in the tail as students will now face 40 instead of 30 years in repayment,” he added.
The government says the plans aim to make the system fairer for students and taxpayers, with more people attending university today than ever before.
He says not all students receive the same quality of education and too often students go into debt for courses that will not help them earn more in the future.
He says he will seek advice on how to encourage young people to follow the right path and receive fair treatment for their investment if they choose to go to university.
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“Only 25% of students will repay their loan in full,” said Michelle Donelan, Minister of Higher Education and Continuing Education.
“Someone is going to have to pay for this and the reality is that’s the taxpayer, the vast majority of those who didn’t go to college.
“What we’re doing is improving quality so that students go on to seek better jobs after graduation and the taxpayer pays less of that bill.”