Two of the biggest reasons why people choose not to go to university are worries over cost and the desire to gain financial independence from their parents. Press reports of slumps in graduate employment and rising student debt don’t help either. Rumours are often just rumours, however. A lack of money shouldn’t put you off, and you needn’t depend on your parents for funding. You’ll probably need a loan and you won’t have a big income, but nor will you be on the poverty line.
Since the introduction of tuition fees (which you only pay back once you are earning a salary) the government has provided a lot more support for people from low-income families. Universities themselves are expected to supplement this with their own bursaries and grants when necessary. In some cases there is extremely extensive provision for those without adequate personal funding, so don’t be put off because of cost.
Fees: The biggest change to university finance in recent years has been the introduction of tuition fees. Initially set at around 3,290 a year, many universities are now charging £9,000 per year (the maximum) or a little under but check our individual profiles before you apply. If you are a Welsh student, you will only pay a maximum of £3,375, even if you attend a university elsewhere in the UK. Eligible Scottish students do not pay fees to attend Scottish universities.
The maximum tuition fee a university or college can charge is £9,000. The increase in the maximum tuition fee rate to £9,000 in 2012/13 only applies if you’re entering university or college for the first time in September 2012 or later.
Other costs: If you’re living away from home you’ll also have a range of other costs. You’ll need money for accommodation, food, travel and going out. The NUS estimates that the average living costs for students per year are £10,607 (outside London) and £11,697 (in London). All of these costs can be met through loans from Student Finance and university bursaries if necessary.
The NUS also estimates that the average student spends £471 on costs associated with their course, such as books. Most universities offer specific book grants to cover these costs and there are always students willing to sell old books so take advantage of this. Be sure to get in early as there are plenty of other canny students out there.
Since the introduction of top-up fees the Government has made efforts to make sure that financial support for students is comprehensive and accessible. You'll find everything you need to know at Student Finance England , Student Finance Wales or SAAS (Scottish Awards Agency For Scotland) but we’ve made a summary of the key points below:
Student loans: All students are eligible for a student loan to help them with the cost of living. There are two types of loan available:
You are entitled to:
If your parents are divorced, student finance will only use the income of the parent you live with to assess your entitlement. If this parent has a new partner, the parent and the partner will both have their incomes assessed.
These loans must be paid back, but not until you’ve finished your degree and are earning over £15,000 a year. The more you earn, the more you will pay back.
Maintenance Grants: A maintenance grant is different from a maintenance loan. Roughly 40 per cent of students qualify for a full maintenance grant of £3,250 and even more qualify for a partial grant depending on household income. You cannot claim both the full maintenance loan and full maintenance grant, however. For every £1 of the maintenance grant you are given, £1 is deducted from the amount you are entitled to borrow as a maintenance loan.
You need to apply to Student Finance as early as possible, and certainly before mid-June in the year you start at University. Applications can take a long time to process so be prepared to wait. You don’t want to find yourself without money because you didn’t apply early enough.
Bursary: If you are receiving the full maintenance grant you’re also entitled to receive a bursary from your university. Many universities offer money to students on partial grants as well. These are usually given at the start of the year and don’t need to be repaid. Make sure you get your application in on time and provide your university with all the details they need to process your application. A useful tool to use is Bursary Map. Some universities will also offer scholarships for academic or sporting success so check for these as well.
Hardship grants: Hardship grants provide emergency money if you run into difficulty which couldn’t have been foreseen when you first made your finance application. For example, if your parents can’t or don’t want to fund you anymore, you could be eligible. This could be because you’ve just come out and your relationship has broken down. Your university will have more information about this.
Lack of parental support
If you’re estranged from your parents – that is, you have no relationship with them - you can get help. If this is the case, you will need to apply as an estranged student for funding. Student Finance England will expect evidence of your estrangement, possibly in the form of a letter from a social worker or school. Universities will also make provision for you to stay in residence during vacations, and there are often special grants for this.
Student bank accounts
Most high street banks provide accounts for students offering interest-free overdrafts, student credit cards, and a range of freebies. This can be useful if you overspend occasionally, but make sure you don’t get carried away. It all needs to be paid back. Nothing is free, so read the small print.
Part time jobs
Most universities will allow you to take a part-time job during term-time to help with maintenance costs.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot of support out there and it’s all really easy to access. But that doesn’t mean that university education isn’t going to cost you anything. It’s important that you budget carefully and it’s worth making a student budget, particularly because student loans are paid in bulk at the start of term and you don’t want to be broke by the end. Make sure that you make full use of student travel cards and other student discounts. That doesn’t mean that you’re not able to have any nights out, just that you should know how much money you are spending and how quickly.
University funding is stressful for everyone, and being lesbian, gay or bisexual can sometimes make it seem that little bit more difficult, either because you’re worried about losing support from your parents or simply want to cut yourself off from them straight away. But we can’t stress enough how this shouldn’t be a barrier to you going into higher education, and the financial support system is designed entirely to make sure this isn’t the case.
Funding and finance for higher education in Wales
If you are looking for assistance with financing your studies, the Student Finance Wales website contains the information you need to apply for loans and bursaries.
If you are already studying at university and experiencing problems then you should consider speaking to your Student Union and/or Advice Service. They will be best placed to give you the information you need and point you in the right direction so you can get some support.
If you don’t receive any support from your parents you have to be able to prove that they are unwilling to support you before the Student Loans Company or your institution’s hardship fund will consider you for assistance on your own disregarding your parent’s income. Normally this would be in the form of a letter from your parents saying that you are estranged, but this can obviously be impractical. There have been cases where a letter from a social worker or family doctor has been taken in to account, but due to the lack of official guidance in this area, a bit of grey area exists so this doesn’t always happen. Again, you should consider speaking to your Student Union and/or Advice Service for some help and guidance in this area.
Scottish Finance System
There are lots of sources of funding available to Higher Education students in Scotland. These vary depending on things like nationality, family income level, childcare responsibilities and the type of course being taken. The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) deals with support for students living in Scotland and at University throughout the UK. See the SAAS website for eligibility criteria, residency criteria, and further details.
The following information is from the SAAS website.
Tuition Fees: If you live in Scotland or another European Union (EU) country outside the UK, and are going to be studying full-time in Scotland, your tuition fees will be paid on your behalf by the Scottish Government through SAAS.
Student loan: The amount you can borrow depends on what course you are taking, where you live while you study; and your household income (your own, your parents’ and/or your partner’s)
The maximum amount SAAS can pay if you live away from home while you study is £5,417 a year for a standard 30 week course. If the household income is over around £61,000 a year, you will only receive the minimum amount of £915 a year.
Young Students' Bursary :SAAS will pay this bursary instead of part of the student loan, so it reduces the amount of money you need to borrow. If your household income is £19,310 or less a year, they will pay the highest amount of £2,640 a year. If your household income over £34,195 a year you will not be entitled to any bursary. If you have done a course of higher education before you may not be eligible for this bursary.
Independent Students' Bursary: Again, SAAS will pay this bursary instead of part of your loan, so it reduces the amount of money you borrow. They pay the highest amount of £1,000 a year if your household income is £19,310 or less a year, which will go down to zero for a household income over £34,195 a year. As with the Young Students’ Bursary, you may not be eligible for this if you have taken a course of higher education in the past.
As well as the main loan, if you are eligible to receive the Young Students' Bursary or the Independent Students' Bursary, you may also be eligible for the Additional Loan. SAAS will pay the highest amount of £785 for a household income of £18,300 or less a year, which will go down to zero for a household income over £22,789 a year.
There are supplementary grants available to certain categories of students such as lone parents, those with dependants, and those leaving care to enter higher education. Extra help is also available to those who have a disability, learning difficulty, or mental health problem.
Other sources of funding: There may also be other sources of funding you are entitled to from your college or university, the Department of Work and Pensions, and other organisations. See the SAAS website for further details,
Repaying the student loan
You will have to start to repay the loan when you are earning over £15,000. The Student Loans Company (SLC) expects you to repay 9 per cent of your annual income, but you can make extra voluntary payments to reduce your loan quicker. Your employer will take your repayments straight from your salary.
Your parents' contribution
SAAS work out the parents’ contribution by: If your parents live together, they will use both their income, if your parents are separated, divorced or no longer live together, they will use the income of the parent that you normally live with, If your parent lives with a partner or you have a step parent, they will use their income as well as your parent’s.
Under the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985, parents have a general obligation to support their children up to the age of 25 if they are in further or higher education or training.
SAAS treat the parents' contribution as part of your support, and they will reduce the amount they pay by the amount of the of the assessed parents' contribution.
What if I have no contact with my parents?
If you are not in contact with at least one of your parents the SAAS will need to see the appropriate evidence that explains why. For example, a letter from a social worker, a police officer or a solicitor (whichever is relevant in your case) which clearly explains why you are not in contact with them.
ILA Scotland is a Scottish Government scheme that helps you pay for part-time learning. If you are over 16, studying a part-time higher education or professional qualification course such as a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) or a Degree, and earn under £22,000 per year, you could get up to £200 towards the cost of your course.
To find out more call ILA Scotland on 0808 100 1090 or go to www.ilascotland.org.uk.