A university education was once the sole preserve of the wealthy elite. Today, however, anyone with the academic capability has the opportunity to study and make memories at their chosen HE institution. One thing remains unchanged, however, university education is still remarkably expensive. Fortunately, even for prospective undergraduates from low-income backgrounds, there are a plethora of options for financing your university education and your lifestyle while studying.
The key to good student financial management is just like any other kind of financial management. It’s simply a case of knowing which financial products and opportunities are out there and which are best for your circumstances. With around £16BN loaned to around one million students in England each year it’s safe to say that student debt is, in 2019 an inevitability. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t borrow smart!
Here we’ll look at the wealth of student funding options available for those wishing to better their lives and their prospects through academia…
Student grants and bursaries
Before you start looking into student loans you should first check to see if you are eligible for any grants or bursaries which may mitigate your financial liability for your studies. Every year student’s turn to commercial financing when there is government funding put in place specifically for people in their circumstances. Student Cash Point has a really great comprehensive breakdown of all finance options available in England, Scotland and Wales but let’s go through the broad strokes…
Grants- While maintenance grants have been phased out for new students in England, they are still available for students in Wales and Northern Ireland. The maximum grant is £5,161 for Wales and £3,475 for Northern Ireland. There’s also a Special Support Grant for single parents or those on housing benefit, income support or Disability Living Allowance. Single parents may also be eligible for Dependent and Childcare Grants. Moreover, students who have to study abroad as part of their course or who need to travel around frequently due to the nature of their course may also be eligible for a travel grant.
Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)- Students with long-term health issues, learning difficulties or mental health problems may be eligible for DSA. You will likely need to provide a letter from your doctor or submit to a medical assessment.
Bursaries and Scholarships- Although the Nursing Bursary has been phased out the Social Work bursary is available to students in Northern Ireland and Wales. Means-tested bursaries are also available to students studying in Scotland.
Most grants and bursaries are means tested so you will need to provide details of your household / parental income.
For most students, the lion’s share of their funding will come from a student loan. How much you can borrow will also be means tested. It’s also worth noting that if you are eligible for any grants or bursaries this will likely have an impact on how much student loan you can borrow. Your eligibility will be determined by;
- Your chosen HE institution
- Your course
- Whether you have studied before
- Your citizenship or residency status
There are two kinds of student loans. Tuition fee loans (to cover the cost of the course itself) and maintenance loans (to help towards the cost of living while you study). Tuition fee loans cover tuition costs of up to £9,250 per year in public universities and £6,165 at private institutions.
Maintenance loans for the 2019/2020 academic year are £7,529 for students living with parents, £11,672 for students living independently in London and £8,944 for students living outside of London.
Student bank accounts
Students are big business for banks and they will be happy to throw some appealing incentives your way to entice you to their bank. From hefty overdrafts to free railcards and Amazon Prime gift cards savvy undergraduates can make substantial savings on their living costs by boxing clever with their choice of bank account.
Student credit cards
Your undergraduate years are a great opportunity to start building up your credit score for times when you will need good consumer credit later in life such as car finance or a mortgage. Paying for life’s little essentials with your credit card and paying off the balance promptly is a great way to lay the foundations for a strong credit score.
Finally, if you face unexpected financial hardships which cannot be rectified by your student loan, a credit card or money made from part time work, you may find that you need to fall back on a personal loan.
Personal loans should be regarded warily as interest rates will be much higher than your student loan but they can be useful in getting you out of a jam. Just be sure that you can factor the monthly repayments into your budgeting. Go Compare has some useful recommendations for student friendly personal loans.
With so many funding options available, there’s no reason to let anything holding you back from your dream course!