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To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government has taken to increase support available to mature students since 1997.
Before 2006, loans were limited to students aged under 55, or under 50 for students not intending to enter employment upon graduating. During the passage of the Higher Education Act, concerns were raised about the upper age limits: the Government set up a working group which recommended that there should be no age limit applied to the fee loan when this was introduced in 2006, and a review of the existing age limits on maintenance loans with the intention of increasing this to match the state pension age for the 2006-07 academic year. Consequently, mature students are generally eligible for the same student support as other students, though maintenance loans are available only to those aged under 60. In 2006-07 the age limit for applying for a student loan was raised to 60 years of age and the additional requirement for the student to enter into an agreement to work after their studies was removed.
Students over 25 years of age ('mature students') are treated as independent, and are assessed on their own income (and the income of their spouse or partner where applicable) and not on the income of their parents. For full-time students, fee loans of up to £3,070 (£3,145 in 2008-09) ensure that no one has to pay their fees upfront students under the age of 60 are eligible for maintenance loans of up to £6,315 (£6,475 in 2008-09)(1). Means-tested grants of up to £2,765 (£2,835 in 2008-09) are available to new students. From 2008-09, we are increasing the income thresholds for the means tested maintenance grant so many more full-time students, including mature students, will receive grant support. This will mean that one third of all eligible students in England entering higher education in the academic year 2008-09 are expected to be entitled to a full non-repayable grant worth £2,835 and another one third are expected to be entitled to a partial grant.
(1) This is the maximum amount available to students studying in London. Students studying elsewhere can receive up to £4,510 (£4,625 in 2008-09)
They can also access targeted support including the adult dependants grant, parents learning allowance, childcare grant and disabled students allowance. students may also qualify for a bursary from their higher education institution. Students may also apply for support from the access to learning fund, a university-administered fund for students experiencing financial hardship.
Student parents are eligible to receive child tax credit from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Mature students who do not qualify for undergraduate student support may be eligible for a career development loan which has an element of subsidy from public funds.