The amount of money given to support students from poor homes is to be slashed by almost 90 per cent, the National Union of Students (NUS) has claimed.
The enhanced learner support fund - which will help students following the axing of educational maintenance allowances (EMAs) - will be boosted by just pound;40 million a year to pound;66 million, according to the NUS. This compares with pound;560 million a year spent on EMAs.
Shane Chowen, NUS vice-president, said the union was given the figure this week by a Department for Education (DfE) official at a forum on learning support. The DfE has denied the pound;40 million figure - it has previously said it would invest pound;150 million in a new fund.
The NUS has also condemned the enhanced learner support fund for being "subjective" and warned that it will result in needy students missing out.
Rather than being distributed centrally - the case with EMAs - the money will be given to individual schools and colleges to give out.
Mr Chowen said: "We knew it was going to be a small sum of money invested, but we didn't realise it was going to be quite so little.
"Colleges and sixth forms will be able to use their own discretion on what is hardship. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that the money students receive from the enhanced learners support fund cannot be used on public transport.
"Seeing 16 to 19-year-olds unable to get to college in this day and age is devastating."
The EMA was scrapped by the Government based on claims that only 12 per cent of students who received the allowance said they needed it.
"Given the economic climate, the state of the public finances . it is only right that we should find a better, more effective way of targeting support," a spokesman said.
The NUS claims that 60 per cent of students receiving the grant will be unable to continue in education without it.