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Newcastle's post-EMA support scheme could be worth #163;1m

Students to receive up to pound;600 a year at college where 40 per cent currently get allowance

Students to receive up to pound;600 a year at college where 40 per cent currently get allowance

The most comprehensive student support scheme yet has been announced by Newcastle College in an effort to encourage poorer students to enrol despite the abolition of the EMA.

Students who meet the old criteria for the allowance could receive up to pound;600 a year from college funds - about half of the maximum under the previous student support regime. Called the Newcastle College Maintenance Allowance, it comes in addition to the Government's new bursaries and could mean an investment of up to pound;1 million from the college, based on current numbers of eligible students.

Carole Kitching, college deputy principal, said: "This is a really, really important thing. We have got about 40 per cent of our students currently receiving EMA. Many just wouldn't be able to afford to complete their studies if they didn't get it.

"We would hope it would encourage more students from poor families to come to us.

"The college has always reinvested any surpluses it gets into learners, whether it's through resources, development of its estates or whatever, and this is just another way of doing that."

There will be no limit on the number of 16 to 18-year-old students on full-time courses who can claim the money, she said, as long as they are eligible.

Newcastle is one of several colleges trying to reassure students at a time when their entitlements under the Government's new bursary scheme remain unknown. The decision of some colleges to dip into their own budgets to maintain the level of student support bolsters their claim that the grant was vital for large numbers of students to stay in education.

Research by the Department for Education had claimed that 90 per cent of EMA payments were "dead weight" costs because students would have enrolled on courses anyway.

Middlesbrough College, where 67 per cent of students are EMA recipients, has promised up to pound;400,000 to supplement the bursaries. It will pay for free bus travel, subsidised rail transport, cash rewards for good attendance, subsidised or free meals and subsidised stationery, as well as free gym membership and haircuts.

Bursaries

Sunderland distribution pledge

City of Sunderland College has unveiled details of how it intends to distribute its share of the Government's pound;180 million bursary fund, which replaces the EMA.

It revealed its plans ahead of a Government announcement on how much funding each college will receive and has pledged to underwrite any shortfall if the grant proves lower than expected.

All students with a family income below pound;20,817, the threshold for the maximum pound;30 a week EMA grant, will be eligible, the college said. Depending on individual circumstances, students could receive pound;510 a year for travel, pound;510 for meals and all of their course material costs.

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