Thousands more university students will receive a full maintenance grant, the government revealed today.
New universities secretary John Denham announced plans to raise the earnings ceiling to qualify for a maintenance grant.
Students with a combined family income of up to £25,000 a year will now be eligible for the full grant of more than £2,800.
Previously only a quarter of students were eligible for full support, coming from families with a combined annual income of £18,000 or less, but this will now rise to a third.
Aside from the extra 50,000 students who will get a full maintenance grant, thousands more will qualify for partial support after the government raised the earnings cap for smaller grants to £60,000.
The government wants to get half of young people into higher education, but was on course to miss this target amid increasing concerns of student debt.
Mr Denham said today's announcement marked a "major increase in support for students".
He said: "We are wasting the talents of too many young people for whom university study should be a realistic ambition, not out of reach.
"Hard-working families on modest incomes have concerns about the affordability of university study."
To support graduates, the universities secretary also said students starting higher education from 2008 would be able to take a repayment break of up to five years on their student loan.
The government will invest an additional £400 million a year to fund the increased support.
The University and College Union (UCU) welcomed Mr Denham's statement as proof the government had recognised the difficulties faced by students.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Making more students eligible for maintenance grants will hopefully prevent students from having to stack shelves or flip burgers when they should be in lectures and seminars."
She said the option of a five-year repayment holiday would benefit graduates, many of whom are putting off starting a family or buying a house.
Mr Denham did not mention top-up fees in his Commons announcement.
Student campaigners had feared they would deter young people from less well-off backgrounds entering higher education, although the government has benefited from relatively stable admission figures.
Top-up fees are currently capped at £3,000 a year, but the government is expected to increase this in coming years amid pressure from universities.