Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/614/8949
EMA inadequacy impacts badly on students
A MAJOR issue for a lot of students studying at college level is funding. At the moment, 16-18 year-olds living in low-income households are entitled to a maximum of £30 a week Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Christopher Rawlinson, Southampton Socialist Students
Supposedly, this encourages students to stay in education by helping them cover both day-to-day costs and the purchase of educational material.
The reality, however, is that it's practically impossible to pay for travel, buy all the necessary textbooks and contribute to food and household bills on £30 a week, meaning that most students have to spend their weekends working long shifts at part-time jobs on a meagre wage in order to pay their way.
The government itself recognises that £30 a week is far from enough to cover even the cost of living. This is evidenced by the (also pitiful) amount given to people claiming Jobseekers Allowance.
Anybody aged 16-24 claiming JSA is entitled to up to £50.95 a week, with extra money often given to cover expenses related to the search for employment (travel to interviews, clothing for interviews, etc.).
Despite this, the government seems to think that students, with their extra costs and less time for part-time work, are capable of living on £20 less than the unemployed.
Even those students with part-time jobs have trouble making ends meet due to the ridiculous wages they are paid. The minimum wage in this country for under-18s is a pathetic £3.57 an hour.
To put this in perspective, a single ticket on a Wilts & Dorset bus costs £3.70.
Anybody under 18 years of age is going to have to work at least two hours just to cover the cost of travel there and back (assuming their place of work is only one bus journey away).
If we take into account travel costs, the cost of lunch and the lowly wage, the student is making very little whilst sacrificing important revision and leisure time.
Most students recognise the financial problems faced by those in full-time education, but at present few do more than grumble about the injustice of it.
It is imperative that students resolve these issues is by uniting and taking action themselves.
With talk of a rise in university tuition fees, the planned termination of EMA bonuses and almost a million 16-24 year-olds unable to find work, action must be taken immediately.
In The Socialist 3 March 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
The Socialist Interview
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party feature