Students have welcomed additional financial support from the Scottish government to help those facing hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.
NUS Scotland president Liam McCabe said college students were facing "untold disruption to their studies, work and lives as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic", with significant implications for their financial security.
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It was announced yesterday that the Scottish government will make a £5 million package of support available for college and university students facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
This includes an additional £2.2 million for Scotland’s Higher Education Discretionary Fund to address Covid-19-related hardships, which will be available to colleges and universities immediately. College students and their peers at university will be able to apply for any emergency discretionary payments directly to their own institutions. According to the government, £2 million emergency student funding has been forwarded by the Scottish Funding Council from FE student support budgets for immediate use.
The package also includes £100,000 available to support around 1,000 students studying with private providers, a three-month suspension by SAAS of all new debt recovery actions in respect to grants and bursaries for students whose circumstances have changed, and an extension of the Care-Experienced Accommodation Grant from early April allowing eligible students to access support of a non-repayable grant of up to £105 per week.
Mr McCabe said that NUS Scotland welcomed the Scottish government’s announcement of discretionary funding.
He added: "While we recognise this will not fully address all student hardship stemming from the pandemic, we hope it will relieve some of the difficulties being endured by the most vulnerable. It is vital that colleges make these funds as accessible as possible, and that students are supported in seeking this relief where necessary.
“It’s crucial that colleges, and the Scottish government, keep track of demand for hardship funding – to ensure that no student in need of support ever goes without.”
FE, HE and science minister Richard Lochhead said all bursaries, grants and loans were continuing to be paid as planned, but the current situation had resulted in increased hardship. “That is why we are making extra funding immediately available for students most in need, to help alleviate concerns around accommodation costs, mental health issues, general living costs and wellbeing,” he said.
“Institutions will be provided with specific guidance on the discretionary funding related to Covid-19, to explain all relevant details while students can access the latest information on Covid-19 on the Student Information Scotland website.”