EDUCATION

Grant-awarded students finish studies two years earlier than peers

Report suggests government could save 900 million a year by limiting time spent at universities

Spanish university students who are granted a state subsidy finish their degree courses 2.1 years earlier than those that do not have such aid, Education Ministry data shows. Grant-awarded students on average require 5.2 years to complete their courses, compared to 7.14 years for their peers. Last academic year there were 263,000 students in Spain with state grants, while 1,280,000 students did not receive any external financial help.

In a study of the official ministry figures entitled Financial crisis, finances, university students and contributory equity, the seventh installment of a project funded by the European Foundation Society and Education, researchers Juan Hernández Armenteros and José Antonio Pérez conclude that the Spanish state would save 900 million euros every academic year if all students graduated in the same timeframe as those with grants. The two investigators therefore propose that all campuses introduce a limit to the amount of time students spend at university.

The public education system covers 82 percent of the first year of a student’s studies, with the other 18 percent met either by the student, if financial means are available, or by the state in the contrary case. However, if a student without a grant has to repeat a subject they remain on the course, whereas students with grants are forced to abandon their studies if they cannot meet subsequent payments.

This, says Pérez, of the University of Valencia, has “weakened the principle of equal opportunities, as it seems that only students with grants have to ensure that public resources are used efficiently.” Low marks can lead to a grant-awarded student losing their financial aid, and if forced to abandon a course they are obliged to pay back their grants.

In 2011-12, a third of all students lost their grants because of poor academic performance in their second year of studies.

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