New proposals to give families more financial help with university costs have been published by Ministers - with a cap £40,000 lower than previously announced - and will be debated by the States Assembly on 10 April.
The top income level of £150,000, which 16% of respondents to the consultation deemed too high, has been lowered to £110,000.
This means that every student living in a household with an annual income under £110,000 will see their tuition fees covered up to £9,250 a year, the standard cost for an undergraduate degree in the UK. Students in households with an income between £110,000 and £200,000 a year will have a percentage of tuition fees paid, based on a sliding scale starting from a maximum of £8,325 to £925. Students from households with an income of £200,000 and above will not be eligible for any form of grant.
The scheme will apply to all eligible students studying for a first undergraduate degree from September 2018, whether in their first, or later, years of their course. Tuition fees charged by on-island degree providers will also be eligible.
The maximum standard maintenance grant for living expenses has also been increased by £1,500 a year, taking it to £7,500 per student. Whereas the initial proposal included a maintenance grant of at least £2,000 for students from households earning between £90,000 and £94,999.99, the new one cuts off any maintenance grants for any students whose parents earn more than £89,999.99 a year.
Pictured: Left - the original figures released as part of the consultation on the university funding proposals; and on the right, the version which will be taken forward by Ministers.
The Student Loan Support Group shared concerns that families earning incomes around £165,000 might be worse off, due to the tax allowance being taken away. The allowance meant that families cloud claim up to £3,120 per academic year, which needs to be deducted from the figures announced by the Council of Ministers to give a real picture of what families will get.
The announcement comes after more than 3,000 islanders put in their thoughts as part of the consultation on the plans. 88% of respondents said they were in favour of the proposal overall with the highest support from those aged 16 to 18 (99.7%), closely followed by 11 to 16-year-olds (97.3%). Approval ratings were over 90% for all aged between 18 and 49, and stood at 81.5% for 50 to 59.
The changes to the original plan announced by the Treasury Minister in the 2017 Budget speech are said to have been designed "to ensure the funding is better targeted and give extra help to lower income families."
The new scheme includes a built-in review every five years so the level of the grant is maintained against inflation.
Pictured: Senator Alan Maclean, the Treasury Minister announced plans to increase higher education funding as part of the Budget Debate in November 2017.
Some aspects of the current university funding scheme will not change. The extra fees for medicine, veterinary and dentistry courses will still be met by way of an additional grant, while families with assets of more than £0.5 million – not including the family home – will not be eligible for States funding.
The Treasury Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, said: “After careful consideration, we have fine-tuned the original proposal to ensure we can support more Jersey students to get to university. This is a significant ongoing investment in education and we have a duty to make sure the available funds reach the islanders who need it most.”
The extra grants will be funded through underspends in the Education Department budget and, from the year of tax assessment 2019, the removal of the Higher Child Allowance, which will generate £3.5 million per year. The Treasury Minister however indicated during a Scrutiny panel that an extra £4 million would be needed from 2020 on top of the current £10.5million budget, without being able to identify a source for funding.
The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, said: “Our young people will now be able to contemplate a university education with less worry about financing it. I am delighted we have been able to find a solution that avoids large debt, either for students or for the island. This will ultimately strengthen Jersey’s economy by providing the skilled employees our businesses need to thrive.”
Acting Education Minister Deputy Anne Pryke said: “This is excellent news for our students and their families. I am pleased that, as well as enabling young people to study outside Jersey, we are also supporting students who wish to make use of the high-quality degrees we have on the island. We will also continue to look at how these local options can be improved and expanded.”
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