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Changes To Support Structure Threaten Britain’s Non-Traditional Students

In the UK, there are major changes on the horizon for students aged 24 and over. On top of the expected doubling of tuition by colleges, the government is proposing to scrap the existing non-traditional student financial support system and replace it with a series of loans.

There is currently a system of grants is in place to help non-traditional students fund their education. Under this system, up to 50% of course costs for non-traditional student education are covered, leaving them to pay the other half. However, starting in 2013, the government is proposing to replace it with a system of loans.

Students will be expected to begin repaying these loans after completing their courses and starting to earn a wage of £21,000 or more.

Writing in The Guardian, Labour Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills Gordon Marsden predicts these changes will have a negative impact on non-traditional enrollment. He points out that it’s a market segment made up of “people who have had bad experiences of education” who “often have to be supported and incentivized towards adult learning”. Further, Marsden fears that the prospect of having to take out loans of £4,000 each year of their education will cause people to automatically turn away from the academy.

In fact, while the federal Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has only just begun market research to understand the public perception of these changes, Marsden said they are starting with the base assumption that the changes will cause at least 20% of existing adult students to abandon their studies.

Due to the effect the loans are likely to have on adult student enrollment—and the spillover effect that will have on higher education institution coffers—Marsden recommends the government reconsider “its ‘Big Bang’ gamble.