The Government will invest 400 million euros to expand scholarships for one million students

The Government is determined to fight for scholarships. Pedro Sánchez's announcement that he will give 100 euros a month between September and December to all beneficiaries of a study aid scholarship over 16 years of age represents an investment of around 400 million euros. According to data offered by the president himself in the debate on the state of the nation, one million students will benefit from this item. According to these accounts, the extraordinary aid is equivalent to 18.7% of the total scholarship program, which amounts to 2,134 million euros this year, the largest amount in history.

On scholarships, rich and poor: the trap of educational aid that does not take income into account

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Sánchez has referred to the controversy over scholarships for the Community of Madrid, which has created a program to give aid to families who earn more than 100,000 euros per year. The Government, which has already criticized this program in recent days, seeks to make a difference with this policy with Sánchez's announcement. “[Entendemos] the scholarships to activate the social elevator and not to perpetuate inequalities”, explained the president in the rostrum of the Congress. “Let's go for all. We want to guarantee equal opportunities. We want to help families so that no child is forced to drop out of school out of necessity. Nobody has to leave their studies due to economic problems in our country”, he has argued.

The Ministry of Education had already chosen the scholarship program as one of the elements in which to turn around the policies of the Popular Party in recent years. In university aid, former minister José Ignacio Wert raised the minimum academic requirements to request and maintain the scholarship and designed a complex system, a combination of factors that ended up reducing the number of beneficiaries and also the amounts they received.

Undoing this path was one of the first measures taken by the previous minister, Isabel Celaá, when she landed in the ministry. The need to obtain a certain mark to maintain the aid (which was around 6 or 6.5 depending on the educational stage) has been eliminated and, above all, the lowest threshold to be able to access the full scholarship was raised, which In addition to paying tuition, it includes direct financial aid.

The system change raised the income threshold to access full help. The system contemplates three thresholds under which families must be, which give access to different aid. Only threshold 1, the lowest, gives access to a full scholarship, which includes tuition payment, a fixed amount and another variable. Until now, the thresholds were predetermined at fixed amounts, which vary according to the number of family members. As an example: a family of four had to earn less than 13,909 euros a year in total to be within threshold 1 and be entitled to the full scholarship. They had not been updated, moreover, since they were established 10 years ago.

Now threshold 1 is equated to the poverty threshold, a figure determined by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and that corresponds to 60% of the median income. That figure, in 2018, was 18,628.9 euros for the same family of four members, an increase of 34%. Raising the thresholds resulted in in one year the number of people who received the maximum scholarship doubled.

In this sense, the announcement made today by the President of the Government also has its ideological component: where the Community of Madrid sets an income limit of 107,739 per year for a family of three members to access aid, to have a Government scholarship the maximum income for that same family of three is 34,352 euros per year.

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