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The National Union of Students (NUS) have recently created a petition to make student finance payments monthly, as part of National Student Money week, which took place in Week 5. The NUS claim that they have teamed up with the National Association of Student Money Advisers to campaign for monthly student loan payments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, by encouraging students to sign an online petition.
The NUS claim that their research has found students want to be paid more frequently than the current three termly instalments, and that the present system causes problems. “We know that many students find it difficult to budget and hardship funds see a spike in applications at the end of each term. Most salaries are paid on a monthly or weekly basis, and most bills come in once a month – so it makes sense for student support to be paid more frequently.”
Critics of the proposal have argued that a monthly payment would be impractical for many students who are expected to pay their accommodation rent at the start of each term; a criticism which the NUS have acknowledged and insist that accommodation providers will readjust to students’ needs “as they did in Scotland”. The NUS also argued that whilst the start of the year is often more expensive for many students “Scottish students also get a double payment in their first month to help pay for start-up costs.”
VP (Welfare and Community) Tom Fox has mentioned this issue before, with the ‘Pound in your Pocket’ research, conducted by the NUS, being presented as an item in the Week 5 Union Council papers. The concept is due to be discussed in Union Council, although its members anticipate that there could be initial problems with the switch. SCAN spoke to one undergraduate, who said “I think that the student loan is troublesome for many higher education students, not just because it is a termly payment, but because the sheer amount of paperwork that you have to fill in to be eligible for the student loan goes wrong for many students. I think that a monthly payment might be useful, but I also thing that if student finance occasionally struggle to make the termly payments, regular monthly payments could be asking for too much. Students would be in much more financial trouble if the payment of their student loan is unreliable – because then they’ll miss rent payments and won’t be able to afford food.”
Another student commented, “Perhaps the NUS should be campaigning for fairer loans, rather than assuming that students who come from reasonably well-off families will be supported by their parents and end up having to take a part-time job at university just to survive.”