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Ex-Minister Bids For More Student Funding

Jersey's former Education Minister is bringing a vote to the States, seeking more money for students in higher education.

Deputy Inna Gardiner is proposing a raft of changes to student finance.

Among them, she wants higher threshold for means-test grants to reflect inflation and to help parents with the high cost of living.

It comes after parents and students spoke to the former minister about household pressures.

Deputy Gardiner reports in her proposal that, although wages seem to be increasing steadily, real-terms earnings are effectively flat-lining due to high inflation.

The last time the thresholds were analysed was six years ago, in 2018.

If her request to raise them is support, new rates would take effect at the start of the 2025 academic year.

The deputy hopes that will alleviate some of the challenges students in the UK or abroad currently face.

"It looks like the wages are going up, but buying power (has) definitely decreased, and we have had this conversation in the States several times that the money only takes people so far, and it's about time to review the threshold."

Deputy Gardiner would also like to see islanders in higher education able to get a student loan.

"Currently, we have a grant system.  And even with our very generous grant system we are still not covering the whole cost. so this is why the last part of my proposition asks (Ministers) to explore loans as well.  Maybe we can have a mixed system."

The former Education Minister says spending taxpayers' money on students should be seen as an investment.

"We need to ask ourselves: 'Do we want to have educated young people coming back and contributing?'

The proposal that will be debated in the States Assembly also asks for distance learners to receive the same grants as in-person students.

Deputy Gardiner says not doing so could be seen as discrimination, because people have various reasons for taking online courses.

"Caring responsibilities for elderly parents, children and other members of the family, young people with special educational needs...

Such students are disadvantaged purely because the course is delivered online, so I'm asking to make the funding the same as courses delivered in person."

She also wants extra allowances for those on certain clinical courses such as paramedic science, pharmacy and physiotherapy and for students who moved out of the family home more than a year before starting higher education to be classes as an 'independent student' who is not assessed for a grant based on their parents' income.

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