Bankrolling your degree

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The Independent Online

With the introduction of tuition fees - currently pounds 1,025 a year - and the recent abolition of maintenance grants, you need to undertake some financial planning to make it through your course.

With the introduction of tuition fees - currently pounds 1,025 a year - and the recent abolition of maintenance grants, you need to undertake some financial planning to make it through your course.

First it's worth knowing you may not have to pay all or any of your fees - generally anyone with parents earning less than pounds 23,000 should have their fees paid by their LEA. Even so, you're unlikely to manage without a loan. In 1998, some pounds 941m was paid out under the Student Loans Scheme to over 600,000 students.

You apply for a student loan through your LEA. You should qualify if you're a UK student undertaking a full-time first degree or Diploma of Higher Education. To compensate for the abolished maintenance grant, the loan has been greatly increased; currently you will receive up to pounds 4,480 if you are living away from home and studying in London, pounds 3,635 if you're studying elsewhere, and pounds 2,875 if you live at home.

A quarter of the loan will be means-tested against your family income. You won't have to repay anything until after you graduate, and then only if your income is over pounds 10,000. The repayment rate will be linked to your earnings, with no time limit. It is deducted from your salary and you pay back the same amount in real terms.

But as a Students' Money Matters survey found, the loan is not enough for the 77 per cent of students who also have an overdraft. In general, however, banks are not the cheapest way to fund long-term borrowing, although in the shorter term most offer students an interest free overdraft of pounds 400-pounds 1,500 until your loan cheque arrives.

There are also a number of special access and hardship funds you can try if you get into real difficulties, including the new pounds 250 hardship loan which you can apply for through your university and repay through the student loan scheme. The government also allocates access funds, designed to help students whose backs are really up against the financial wall.

The golden rule if you have money problems is to talk to someone. Every institution will have an adviser or student welfare centre to offer support.

Student Loan Scheme Helpline: 0800 405010

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