THE BLOG

Taking It for 'Granted'...

13/07/2015 16:08 BST | Updated 10/07/2016 10:59 BST

Anyone who is old enough to remember New Kids on the Block, Bros and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, will probably remember another classic from the golden era... university grants.

As part of the class of '96, I was one of the many kids in my school to receive a grant to help me through university. I was a pretty average student and my parents weren't poor - but I got the grant because my sibling was also studying. It's just what happened back then. Looking back, it's pretty astonishing really. There were no tuition fees, the cost of living was less and you were helped through university.

So the news this week, that university grants for underprivileged students would be abolished, saddened me. Not for myself, not for my son, but for the thousands of kids out there, who will never be able to realise their potential, and don't even know it yet.

The decision was made by the Tories (obviously), in his budget, Mr Osborne said the grants had become "unaffordable" and speculated that tuition fees may rise again yet.

Currently, students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less get the full grant of £3,387 a year. Now, that's not exactly much money, but as a former student, I know how beneficial every penny is, and how many cans of beans that equates to... it's a lot.

However, add it all up and it costs the taxpayer a hefty £1.57bn a year. And in these austere times, you can understand why that had to be reviewed.

But here's what I would have done. I wouldn't have abolished it, and I certainly wouldn't have introduced loans, whereby they'd rack up more debt. Instead, I'd have instead allocated a pot of money for those needing support, a lot less than currently sidelined. I'd ask the students to pitch for how much they need, and how they would contribute to society in return for the sum. A bit like crowdfunding meets Dragon's Den!

Because all that will now happen is an elitist class system. Whereby the wealthy go on to further education and the poor don't - and talent or worthiness doens't even matter.

My son is one of the lucky ones, because we are already saving now. He is five months old and already has a Junior ISA and high interest savings account. For Birthday's, Christmas and special occasions, we ask friends, family and strangers to donate whatever they can to these. We also put a sizeable amount in every month (lets say it's a similar amount to how much I pay off for my car) to boost it.

All this is for one reason... the future, to be more specific. University.

I don't care if my kid grows up to be a Scientist or a Milkman, as long as he is happy. I'm not a pushy parent, and I believe kids should enjoy their youth instead of being pressurised to 'do well' constantly.

But, University were the best days of my life. And I want my son to go, if only to experience the unadulterated fun he will have.

These are my hopes for all children, not just mine, but in 18years time, I can only imagine how lucky you'd have to be to go to university.

Sophia is the Editor of Milk Drunk Diary - a blogzine for parents, follow @milkdrunkdiary and facebook.com/milkdrunkdiary

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