By Education, Sport and Culture Minister Deputy Patrick Ryan:
I would like to advise members that I have decided to change the basis for the assessment of income when calculating means-tested grants for university students.
As members will be aware, the Education (Jersey) Law authorises me as Minister for Education, Sport and Culture to provide financial assistance towards the cost of tuition fees and maintenance for university students. For dependent students (young people under the age of 25) the level of grant is determined by an assessment of parental income in the calendar year preceding the year in which the course commences.
If a couple divorce, it is often the case that only one partner’s income is taken into account – the partner with care and control of the student. This is a source of significant concern in Jersey, where 38% of parents sending their children to university notify the department that they are ‘single parents’ for the purposes of student finance. As a result they tend to obtain higher levels of States support than married couples who have two incomes.
Many people who responded to the 2006 review of student financial support, a green paper consultation in 2008 and the recent consultation on education expressed the view that the current arrangements were not equitable and worked against families who stayed together.
Other jurisdictions, such as Guernsey and the Isle of Man use a system based on household income to calculate the amount of student grant. Having considered the issues and the outcomes of the consultations, I have decided to introduce fairer arrangements, similar to those now in place in Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
For the purposes of determining the level of grant award in future the following will be the case:
a) Where the student principally resides with his or her parent(s), the assessment will be based on the gross income of the parent(s).
b) Where the student’s parents have separated or divorced and the parent whose income will be assessed now lives with a new partner, the assessment will be based on the gross household income of both partners. In making this assessment, account will be taken of any maintenance received or paid out.
c) In certain circumstances and at the discretion of the Department for Education, Sport and Culture, the assessment may be based on the income of an absent parent’s household.
As a result of this decision, I will be asking the Law Draftsman to amend the Education (Discretionary Grants) Order to permit this change to come into effect in September 2013 i.e. for the academic year beginning September 2013.
These new arrangements will only apply to students making a first application for a grant in September 2013 and the years thereafter. Those students who have already commenced their courses prior to September 2013 will continue to have their grants assessed under the current arrangements until the conclusion of their courses.
It is anticipated this change will lead to savings of approximately £60,000 in 2013, increasing to an annual saving of approximately £500,000 after three years. There will be additional costs for some households that will come within the scope of the Order, as the income of both the parent and his or her new partner will be taken in to account in the assessment of the award.
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