Richard Lochhead says a new taskforce will “assess the impact of Covid-19 on student hardship”.
The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science spoke to the Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday, after John Swinney announced £30 million funding for students in hardship on Tuesday.
He said: “I’m pleased to tell you I’m creating a short-life taskforce that will assess the impact of Covid-19 on student hardship.
“I want the group to determine if the mechanism and measures currently in place are sufficient to mitigate against student hardship. The group will convene for the first time in the next few days.”
Some £20 million will be made available to students struggling financially across the country. The remaining £10 million will go to universities and colleges as they try to make up for income lost after providing rent rebates.
Mr Lochhead added: “It’ll (the taskforce) work out how we can help as many young people to complete their learner journey as possible in this academic year.
“We’ll look at the what the options may be to help people if there are other plans that have to be put into place.
“The Scottish Government have to work with institutions over any financial consequences of that,” he added.
Earlier, National Union of Students President Mark Crilly said the student hardship fund is a “really important intervention from the Scottish Government”.
“This is really welcome news for students and a really important intervention from the Scottish Government.
“Students should know, if you are struggling at the moment, go on to Google, search your institution. Hopefully you should be able to find funding available to support you,” he added.
‘It’s pretty stringent’
Mr Crilly welcomed the news, although he was critical of the strict application process, despite Mr Lochhead saying the applications are “a lot more flexible”.
“These applications have been made a lot more flexible over the last few months and the limit of money that can be given out has been lifted.”
Mr Crilly disputed this claim, though, saying he “hopes” more money will be made available.
“It’s pretty stringent, it is a means-tested application. Our hope is that with more money made available, institutions should be able to support more people,” he said.
“As students, we often can’t turn to the welfare system that the rest of the population would turn to. Most students aren’t eligible for things like Universal Credit, which is why this intervention from the Scottish Government is so important.