All About UsAllAboutCareers is a social careers information website for everyone who wants to find out more about graduate schemes, apprenticeships, internships and other job-related shenanigans.
University Funding: Student loans, bursaries & money, money, money!
If you’ve heard Barrett Strong’s super catchy tune, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’, you might be under the impression that “the best things in life are free.” However, when this classic song was written in the late 1950s, I don’t think they were considering the cost of higher education in the 21st century. Going to university is one of the best things you can do in your life, but it’s certainly going to cost you!
Wait though, don’t panic! There’s help at hand to make sure you can still afford to go. Ever heard of a student loan? Keep on reading to find out all about funding your university adventures.
How much is all this university stuff going to cost me then?
Well, it really depends on where you study, where you live and what your spending habits are like! Your biggest outgoings are going to be tuition fees, accommodation and living expenses.
We can’t tell you exactly how much your student halls or flat is going to cost. We also can’t tell you how much you’re going to spend on food and drink each week either (although, you might get a good indication from our list of pint prices).
However, we can tell you how much your tuition fees will be. At the moment, tuition fees are capped at a maximum of £3,290 for full-time students for the 2010/11 academic year (this will increase up to £9,000 per year from 2012). This charge may vary between institutions, but most tend to charge a similar amount. There are currently no standardised charges for students doing part-time courses, so you would need to check with each individual institution before applying.
One big thing to consider is your accommodation. If you live at home, then it might work out cheaper but you might feel that you’ll miss out on the different social life you get from living with your university friends. However, if you live away from home then it is going to cost you more money.
On top of your accommodation and course fees, you need to remember that you’re going to have to fork out for travel, books, food, bills and partying too. After all, those drinks aren’t going to buy themselves on a Friday night now are they?
Sounds expensive. Where am I going to get the money from? Who can help me out?
Don’t fret! Help is at hand. The government (and sometimes your university) have kindly offered to loan you the money that you will need throughout your time at university.
For full-time students, the main sources of money are student loans and grants from the government, and bursaries from your university or college.
Everybody’s heard of student loans, but how much do you get and what is it meant to be spent on? First things first, you need to remember that the government is not just giving you a big wad of cash so you can satisfy your passion for dining out at top restaurants and buying everyone champagne all the time. The student loan is enough to help you live and study, but you’re going to need a tight budget.
Everyone is entitled to take out two student loans per academic year. These are: 1) a Tuition Fee Loan, and 2) a Maintenance Loan (N.B. You don’t have to take out both loans. You can just take out one of them. You don’t even have to take out a student loan at all if you don’t want to).
The Tuition Fee Loan does exactly what it says on the tin. It covers your tuition fees in full. It’s paid directly to your university or college and is not dependent on your household income. The amount you get here is understandably dependent on the cost of your tuition fees.
The Maintenance Loan is meant to help cover your accommodation and living expenses. The amount you get depends on your household income. You can get a loan worth up to £4,950 if you live away from home (or more if you study in London). This is usually paid directly into your bank account in three instalments throughout the year.
Is this just free money? Or do I have to pay it back?
The answer to this one is in the keyword: ‘loan’. It may seem like it sucks, but yes you do have to pay it back! However, you don’t have to start paying your student loan back until you’ve finished studying and you are earning over £15,000 per annum. Once you are earning this much, the student loan repayments come out of your pay cheque automatically. “How much do I pay back then?” I hear you cry. Well, you pay back 9% of whatever you earn over £15,000. For example, if you are earning £18,000, you are earning £3,000 over the threshold, and thus you will pay back £270 per annum. That’s not so bad now is it?
Can I get extra help with my living costs?
Yes, you can. However, not everybody is entitled to receive additional grants or bursaries. These grants are dependent on your household income and your family situation (please see below for more detail). Unlike your student loan, these additional grants don’t have to be repaid.
Who is this Grant person you keep talking about?
If you are eligible, you can qualify for one of two grants (you cannot receive both): 1) the Maintenance Grant, or 2) Special Support Grant, which are designed to help with you with your accommodation and other living costs. If you get a grant then it will be paid into your account at the beginning of each term, at the same time as your loan.
The maximum amount of extra money you can get through either of these grants is currently £2,906 per annum. This amount can vary though dependent on your household income. If you get the Maintenance Grant, your Maintenance Loan amount may be affected. Whether you get the Maintenance Grant or the Special Support Grant depends on certain factors.
You can only get the Special Support Grant if you are considered to be a ‘prescribed person’ in accordance with Income Support or Housing Benefit Regulations; for example, if you are a single parent, you are a student parent with a partner who is also a student, or if you have certain disabilities. However, other students can qualify too; it just depends on your personal situation. If you think you might be entitled, then it is probably worth applying.
Another way you can get some extra help is through bursaries. These are an extra source of financial help which comes directly from your individual university or college. If you’re paying full tuition fees and getting a grant, then you are entitled to at least a minimum bursary from your institution. They might even give you more than the minimum amount. These also don’t have to be paid back.
You may be entitled to receive extra help on top of these grants and bursaries if you have specific learning difficulties, you are disabled, you have a mental health condition, or if you have child or adult dependants.
I’m going to be a part-time student. Will I get the same amount of money?
The short answer is no. However, you can get financial help. The main sources of funding are: 1) the Fee Grant, and 2) the Course Grant.
The Fee Grant understandably helps you with your tuition fees and the amount you get is dependent on how ‘intensive’ your course is, i.e. how long it takes to complete in comparison to the full-time course.
The Course Grant is provided to help you with stuff like books, travel and other studying costs. The maximum combined amount you can get is currently £1,495 per annum; however, the amount you receive is dependent on your household income.
These grants don’t need to be paid back, but you need to apply again every year to receive it. You may be entitled to some additional help if you have learning difficulties, mental health problems, or if you are disabled.
Am I eligible for all of these loans, grants and bursaries?
Probably, but you need to meet certain conditions before you can receive your loans, grants or bursaries.
Here’s what they’re going to assess:
- Personal eligibility (immigration status, nationality, residence conditions, age).
- Course and institution eligibility (type of qualification, university or college).
- Residence (you must be a UK national, have ‘settled status’ [i.e. no immigration restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK], and have been ‘ordinarily resident’ [i.e. lived here normally, even if you were out of the country from time to time] in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for three years before starting the course).
Generally, you’ll only be able to get funding if this is your first undergraduate degree, or if you’re ‘topping up’ a lower-level qualification. So if you’re now on your 7th degree, then it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to get any cash! In order to be eligible for funding, you should usually be studying for one of the following types of course:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA), Science (BSc) or Education (BEd)
- Foundation Degree
- Certificate of Higher Education
- Diploma of Higher Education
- Higher National Certificate (HNC)
- Higher National Diploma (HND)
- Initial Teacher Training (ITT)
- Further training of youth and community workers
Your institution also must be one of the following:
- an institution that awards UK degrees;
- a college which gets government funding, and provides courses leading to degree qualifications;
- a private institution which offers higher education courses (check to make sure);
- a group of schools taking part in the School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) scheme.
To qualify for funding as a part-time student, your course should last at least a year, and must not take more than twice as long as the equivalent full-time course.
If you’re planning to do a further education or postgraduate course then you won’t be entitled to get standard student financial help. However, other options are available to you, so check out the further education and postgraduate funding pages for more info!
Ace. Where & when do I apply?
If you’re a full-time applicant then you need to register and apply online with Student Finance England.
You don’t want to turn up at Fresher’s Week with no money in your account, so in order to make sure you get the money when you need it, you need to apply in plenty of time. The dates change each year but the deadline is usually in the spring before you go to university (i.e. before you have even got you’re A-level results or been accepted by your chosen university). Check out the Student Finance England website for specific info.
If you are a part-time student you need to apply in a different way. Download a form from the Student Finance England website, print it off, fill it in and take it to your university when you start your course. Your attendance will then be verified and your form will be stamped. Then you need to send it to Student Finance England.
How else can I get some extra cash when I’m at university?
The student loan is great. However, sometimes you might need some extra cash to pay the bills, buy some sports equipment, or buy a few pints at the end of term.
Many people actually get part-time jobs when they’re at university. The chances are that your course is not going to keep you busy all day and all night. Why not consider getting a part-time bar job, waiting job, or work in a local shop? Many catering agencies also now exist, who employ waiting staff on an ad hoc basis to dish out canapés and champagne at black tie events etc. These companies allow you to work as much or as little as you want, as there’s always loads of other available staff waiting to fill in for you.
Getting a job with your student union can be an especially good idea. You could work behind the bar, in the student union shop, or even selling tickets on the student union’s reception desk during the day time. They tend to pay you a little bit more and are much more flexible in regards to your working hours. For instance, if you have an urgent essay deadline and you haven’t done it, they can always find someone else to cover your shift at short notice.
I’m rubbish with money. How will I be able to budget?
Budgeting is always tough. Especially when you’ve moved to a new city and you’re going out with a bunch of new friends. However, it’s definitely a good idea to not spend your entire loan in the first few weeks of term.
Spread out your spending and you’ll be able to have fun every week of term (not just in a two week blaze of glory that starts as soon as your loan magically appears in your account). Trust me, we’ve all been there: it’s the last week of term and you’ve got important essay deadlines coming up.
All you want is a good solid dinner to give you the energy to stay up all night and write them. Unfortunately, you spent all your cash on beer and playing on quiz machines; so now you’re stuck with a loaf of stale bread and a pot of peanut butter, which is definitely past its sell-by-date and appears to be winking at you every time you spread it on your pitiful slices of Mighty White. What’s more, you really need the toilet, you can’t afford to buy toilet roll and your flatmate’s clean white towel is looking more and more inviting.
We don’t want to see that happen! So start thinking about your budget now.