Help students to help economy

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BRITAIN'S university students are facing a double whammy from the economic downturn. Student numbers are going up as people desperately try to reorient their careers. But, at the same time, those in full-time higher and further education are finding it difficult to fund their studies, as part-time jobs disappear, bank loans become increasingly hard to get, and worried parents tighten their own belts.

All UK universities operate discretionary hardship funds for students in financial difficulties, but demand for these grants is outpacing supply – especially north of the Border. This is despite the fact that the Scottish Government has increased discretionary funds this year by 8 per cent (as well as abolishing the endowment fee). The solution is disarmingly simple. The UK government is pumping billions into the economy as a fiscal stimulus to fight the recession. The Chancellor is rumoured to be planning another 20 billion additional stimulus in his April Budget.

Increasing financial help to students as part of this emergency economic package makes sense. Hard-pressed students will not hoard extra money, the way banks have hoarded the funds pumped into them. Students will spend, which is what the economy needs.

And at the same time, they will acquire the specialist skills we will need to rebuild our shattered economy.

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