Personal Finance: How to get by: the university challenge

Students have plenty of people to turn to in making their finances last the course, says Amanda Jarvis
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The Independent Online
MOST students have now started back at college, and many will be finding that managing money on a tight budget is hard. But if you know where to go, there is lots of free financial advice if things go wrong.

If you're not sure how much grant or loan you are entitled to, call the DFEE helpline (see below), which will give advice on grants and loans. It produces a free booklet called Financial Support for Students. It also has booklets for mature students.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has excellent money pages on its website. It advises on insurance, tax, tuition fees, managing your money, overdrafts and there is a list of useful telephone numbers. You can reach the Endsleigh insurance website through the NUS site. Endsleigh has details of house and travel insurance. Woolwich Insurance Services also produce a free student insurance fact sheet.

If you have money problems, speak to the college welfare office. Most colleges have welfare officers who can help with budgeting and give general money advice. Some have a specialist money adviser.

If you run into serious debt problems, you can get advice from a money advice worker. They are usually based at a Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB). Call the Money Advice Association for details or look up the local CAB.

Few students need the services of an independent financial adviser (IFA) and as students are not at the top of their marketing lists, free advice from this source can be hard to come by. But some advisers will run seminars. Liz Crawford, senior manager at Fiona Price and partners, said: "We do sometimes go into sixth-form colleges and universities and give advice on managing money after college." She says the best way to get free advice is to ask friends and family for advice, or anyone who has experience of managing money themselves.

Campus branches of banks and branches in university towns and cities generally have student advisers or counsellors. "Our student advisers can give help on budgeting and advice on how to manage your money, as well as on applying for overdrafts and credit cards. They all have experience in dealing with students and can point out the pitfalls that have caused other students' problems," said Marianne Kemp at Lloyds TSB.

Most banks have leaflets and brochures available (see box). You can pick these up without having to commit yourself to opening an account. Royal Bank of Scotland has compiled a good money guide for students, which is in the Virgin Alternative Guide to British Universities. A copy of this should be in your college library. Finally, if you can get into the habit of reading the weekend money pages of national newspapers you'll learn a lot.

Contacts: Woolwich insurance services, 01322 626262 or http://www.woolwich.co.uk; DFEE, 0800 731 9133 or www.open.gov.uk/dfee.dfeehome.htm; NUS, www.nus. org.uk; Money Advice Association, 01476 594970; National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux, 0171-833 2181 or www.nacab.org.uk.

good freebies - student guides from banks

Marks out of five for usefulness, readability and impartiality. Copies available from local branches.

Barclays: Finding your feet and Get a head start. Marks: 5/5

Finding your Feet has only funding and fees information. It has useful information on access and foundation courses, information for European Union students and gap-year students.

Get a Head Start is an impartial guide that gives information on funding and benefits, money management, part-time work, accommodation and eating out. Its smart, snappy design and handy pocket-sized format makes it an essential freebie.

Lloyds TSB: Student funding: a summary of government savings. Marks: 1/5

This brochure is only about funding, fees and how to get loans and grants and what extra allowances are available. It lists some useful contacts.

Midland: Life as a student. Marks: 4/5

Clear accessible guide to all aspects of student finance. It starts with choosing a university, covers funding and fees, but gives only general details rather than specific amounts available. It gives budgeting advice and impartial advice on choosing a bank and takes a look at life after graduation.

NatWest: A student's guide to money management. Marks: 3/5

Money management advice, a breakdown of likely student expenditure, information on tuition fees and ways to top up your income. It also has a budget planner.

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