Education Maintenance Allowance in Wales will increase to £40 a week for more than 16,000 sixth form and college students from April 2023.
This means there’ll be an extra £10 a week in the pockets of students at a time when the cost of learning has skyrocketed.
EMA is a weekly grant designed to support 16 to 18-year-olds from low-income households with further education costs, such as transport or meals.
In February 2023, NUS Wales launched a campaign calling for EMA to be increased to reflect the true financial strain of studying.
NUS Wales warned that thousands of students were at risk of being priced out of education because the grant had been stuck at £30 a week since it was introduced in 2004.
NUS Wales President Orla Tarn said:
“I’m pleased that the Welsh Government has listened to students and announced a long-awaited increase to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
“EMA is vital in supporting young people from low income families with the cost of further education, however, in the context of spiralling cost of living, it was clear an increase was needed to stop young learners from being priced out of education.”
They continued: “There is still lots of work to do to address the cost-of-learning crisis. Students across Wales are facing a perfect storm of rising rent, bloated bills, massive increases in food prices, and transport costs which are forcing learners to choose between attending classes and paying for food.
“Any review of EMA should be grounded in how best to equip further education students to reach their full potential in our education system and I look forward to working with the Welsh Government to ensure that student voice is at the heart of decision making.”
The Welsh Government has committed to the increase for the next two academic years while an independent review into EMA is conducted.
Who can claim EMA?
FE students between the ages of 16 and 18 are eligible for EMA if their household income is £20,817 or less.
If there is more than one young person in the household the income threshold raises to £23,077.
An FE Calculator is available on Student Finance Wales to check EMA eligibility.
EMA students in Welsh colleges can also access financial support through the Financial Contingency Fund.
Eligibility for the fund is determined by the college and students apply directly to them. It can provide money for things like equipment or materials for the learner to participate in the course, childcare costs, travel costs, books and trips.
Local authorities can also offer help to 16–18-year-old students with transport costs.
Students can speak to their school, Visit Student Finance Wales or their FE college’s website for further advice and help on what financial support is available.