Labour would reinstate scrapped student maintenance grants if elected
Scrapped student maintenance grants would be reinstated under a Labour government, the party has announced.
The party would also restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-18-year-olds if it was to win power in the next general election.
Labour said the measures would support more than one million young people and increase the number of students from poor backgrounds continuing in education.
Reversing the cuts would be paid for by increasing corporation tax by less than 1.5%, the party said.
The Tory Government scrapped maintenance grants for university students from poor backgrounds in England earlier this year, replacing the payments of around £3,500 with additional loans which will have to be paid back at the end of an undergraduate course, once graduates are earning more than £21,000.
While in 2011 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition withdrew the Education Maintenance Allowance, a payment of £30 a week to teenagers from poorer families to help them stay in education, and replaced it with a bursary scheme that gives some of the money to schools and colleges.
Angela Rayner, Labour's shadow education secretary, said: "It is only by investing in education that we can ensure that all of our young people, whatever their background, are able to succeed in whatever they aspire to.
"This policy will have a real and meaningful impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of students.
"Bringing back EMA, which the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies said improves both participation and attainment among 16-18-year-olds, would benefit three quarters of a million students.
"Reversing the Government's replacement of the student maintenance grant with loans would help over half a million students from low and middle income students to cover their living costs at university.
"When we can help improve the education of over a million young people with a small increase in corporation tax, it is an investment we would be foolish not to make."
The number of state-educated students going to university and colleges fell by four percentage points in the first year tuition fees were increased to £9,000, recent data found.
Official new figures recently released by the Department for Education revealed the drop from 66% to 62% between the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 academic years was part of a nine percentage point drop in state school pupils carrying on into higher education since 2009/2010.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: "Without a proper explanation of how all Labour's education proposals could be funded in full, they amount to little more than warm words. Yet again Labour are proving themselves too incompetent and chaotic to build a country that works for everyone.
"This Government is committed to making sure this is a country that works for everyone, and education lies at the heart of this ambition. That's why we are doubling free childcare to 30 hours for working parents of three and four-year-olds. It's why we have already doubled what Labour spent on school places, and it's also why we are making our universities even stronger.
"We have reformed the financial support for 16-18-year-olds who are most in need, in contrast to the costly and poorly-targeted Education Maintenance Allowance. This approach has helped tackle the real barriers to participation, with record numbers in education or training post-16.
"Our planned changes to maintenance for those in higher education will also increase support for the poorest students while making sure student funding remains sustainable."