SU lobbying could see student payments paid monthly

By Ruth Maxwell

Contributor 

Ciarán Gallagher, SU President with Mark Bell, UU President meeting to lobby Minister Farry in December

Ciarán Gallagher, SU President with Mark Bell, UU President meeting to lobby Minister Farry in December

Waiting months for the next installment of the student loan to appear in one’s bank account could become a thing of the past, if QUBSU & NUS-USI have their way. The recent NUS-USI conference delegates unanimously passed a motion to campaign for monthly student finance payments rather than the tri-annual payment scheme that already exists.

On Monday 13th of April, DEL Minister Stephen Farry announced that a public consultation exercise would be held, looking into the feasibility of the scheme. He stated “Student finance has long been a crucial enable of higher education study, and I want to ensure accessibility into and through higher education for all learners”

Sarah Wright, the proposer of the motion and former NUS-USI Welfare officer said “I am delighted that Minister Farry has changed his position on considering the merits of monthly student finance payments by launching a public consultation. Ideally, there would be an option for monthly installments alongside the current scheme, with two payments in September to cover upfront costs and continue throughout the year and the summer months. I’m hopeful that this scheme could be rolled out to GB and International Students ”

Last year NUS-USI published a “Pound in your pocket” report, suggested that 37% of the students surveyed had taken on some form of debt since they began their studies, but more worryingly 5% of students were taking on payday loans to cover their basic needs. The rising costs of rent, food, childcare, course costs and transport have made it increasingly more difficult for students to budget, and have had a detrimental effect on the well-being of students. Sarah added “This scheme would benefit all students who wish to use it. Students will not have to wait months for another payment and therefore be forced to approach payday lenders, go into their overdraft facilities, visit food banks or face homelessness”.

In September 2014, Wright tweeted regarding monthly installments during a funding debate in the NI Assembly, and this was read out by Sinn Fein’s Phil Flanagan. In November, Queen’s Student Union unanimously backed the proposal instructing sabbatical officers to lobby the Department for Education and Learning to look into the change to payment structure.

As part of the delegation from Queen’s at the NUS-USI Conference held in Templepatrick, Wright personally asked Minister Farry if he felt that it would be appropriate for his salary to be paid every 3-5 months. She added that in Scotland, students are able to avail of a monthly student financial payment throughout their academic year and summer and why could Northern Ireland students not avail of the same scheme. The Minister responded that he had not looked into this, but going by the level of support from fellow students in the room, perhaps they should.

In addition, Minister Farry further announced that a public consultation would be held looking into postgraduate and part-time support. The UK Chancellor George Osbourne announced in his

Autumn statement, that for the first time ever loans would be put in place for those wishing to enrol in Postgraduate courses. While the new loan scheme would provide loans up to £10,000 from 2016 onwards, they are currently only available for students studying in England. At present students who wish to study at Masters degree level and studying in Northern Ireland need to self-fund or receive a postgraduate loan from the bank, repayable upon graduating regardless of employment or not.

Both these announcements have been warmly welcomed by Student Council, which has long campaign for changes to Higher Education.

Waiting months for the next installment of the student loan to appear in one’s bank account could become a thing of the past, if QUBSU & NUS-USI have their way. The recent NUS-USI conference delegates unanimously passed a motion to campaign for monthly student finance payments rather than the tri-annual payment scheme that already exists.

On Monday 13th of April, DEL Minister Stephen Farry announced that a public consultation exercise would be held, looking into the feasibility of the scheme. He stated “Student finance has long been a crucial enable of higher education study, and I want to ensure accessibility into and through higher education for all learners”

Sarah Wright, the proposer of the motion and former NUS-USI Welfare officer said “I am delighted that Minister Farry has changed his position on considering the merits of monthly student finance payments by launching a public consultation. Ideally, there would be an option for monthly installments alongside the current scheme, with two payments in September to cover upfront costs and continue throughout the year and the summer months. I’m hopeful that this scheme could be rolled out to GB and International Students ”

Last year NUS-USI published a “Pound in your pocket” report, suggested that 37% of the students surveyed had taken on some form of debt since they began their studies, but more worryingly 5% of students were taking on payday loans to cover their basic needs. The rising costs of rent, food, childcare, course costs and transport have made it increasingly more difficult for students to budget, and have had a detrimental effect on the well-being of students. Sarah added “This scheme would benefit all students who wish to use it. Students will not have to wait months for another payment and therefore be forced to approach payday lenders, go into their overdraft facilities, visit food banks or face homelessness”.

In September 2014, Wright tweeted regarding monthly installments during a funding debate in the NI Assembly, and this was read out by Sinn Fein’s Phil Flanagan. In November, Queen’s Student Union unanimously backed the proposal instructing sabbatical officers to lobby the Department for Education and Learning to look into the change to payment structure.

As part of the delegation from Queen’s at the NUS-USI Conference held in Templepatrick, Wright personally asked Minister Farry if he felt that it would be appropriate for his salary to be paid every 3-5 months. She added that in Scotland, students are able to avail of a monthly student financial payment throughout their academic year and summer and why could Northern Ireland students not avail of the same scheme. The Minister responded that he had not looked into this, but going by the level of support from fellow students in the room, perhaps they should.

In addition, Minister Farry further announced that a public consultation would be held looking into postgraduate and part-time support. The UK Chancellor George Osbourne announced in his

Autumn statement, that for the first time ever loans would be put in place for those wishing to enrol in Postgraduate courses. While the new loan scheme would provide loans up to £10,000 from 2016 onwards, they are currently only available for students studying in England. At present students who wish to study at Masters degree level and studying in Northern Ireland need to self-fund or receive a postgraduate loan from the bank, repayable upon graduating regardless of employment or not.

Both these announcements have been warmly welcomed by Student Council, which has long campaign for changes to Higher Education.

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