Sixth-form began, and the dream died

Two incomes and three sons means couple must sacrifice plan to tour the waterways
When the first of Peter and Kate's three boys entered the sixth form their retirement dream of buying a long boat, tenderly restoring it and spending their twilight years exploring the waterways evaporated.

Peter does not consider himself a high earner, though his basic salary is around pounds 35,000. Kate works part-time and contributes about pounds 7,000 a year to the family finances. "We live comfortably, but I do not consider us to be rich," he says. Peter does have a company car and other perks so even when two of the boys are at university at the same time no grant will be forthcoming.

The eldest has completed his first year and Peter estimates that it will cost him around pounds l0,000, assuming nothing else changes, to fund each of his boys through a degree course. The couple have funds on which to draw, though they are miffed that they were not warned of the costs earlier.

"At first I thought it was reasonable to use the Government's maximum grant figure as a basis of my contribution to the living allowance for David, our eldest. In fact I added pounds 200 in the first term for a float in case of emergencies," Peter says. "Thankfully David is sensible with money so we do not have problems of reckless spending. However, it was soon quite apparent that this sum was insufficient. Insuring his possessions, a mid-term return trip home, the purchase of a personal computer and paying his share of the pounds 350 deposit on the house he was to share in the second year were all unplanned extras."

Peter admits the computer was a luxury as David already has access to computers. "However, a great deal of time was being wasted booking sessions and waiting days for the material to be printed. We all want the best for our kids."

David will be taking the full student loan each year, so despite Peter and Kate's five-figure contribution, he will be leaving university with a sizeable debt

Parental contribution 1997/8


residual income Contribution

below pounds 16,450 None

pounds 16,450 pounds 45

pounds 20,000 pounds 318

pounds 25,000 pounds 828

pounds 30,000 pounds 1,372

pounds 38,000 pounds 2,415

pounds 45,000 pounds 3,349

pounds 50,000 pounds 4,015

pounds 55,000 pounds 4,682

pounds 64,470 or more pounds 5,945

Parental contribution at points between the residual income figures is calculated as follows:

* Where residual income is pounds 16,450 or more, but less than pounds 21,030: pounds 45 plus pounds 1 for every complete pounds 13 by which it exceeds pounds 16,450;

* In any case where the residual income is pounds 21,030 or more, but less than pounds 30,915; pounds 397 plus pounds 1 for every complete pounds 9.20 by which it exceeds pounds 21,030.;

* In any case where the residual income is pounds 30,915 or more: pounds 1,471 plus pounds 1 for every complete pounds 7.50 by which it exceeds pounds 30,915.

Maximum basic grants, England and Wales,1997/8

Hall or Lodgings

London pounds 2,160

Elsewhere pounds 1,755

Parental Home

Any location pounds 1,435

Maximum student

loans, 1997/8:

Hall or Lodgings

London pounds 2,085

Elsewhere pounds 1,685

Parental Home

Any location pounds 1,290

Loans for the final year of study are about 25 per cent less than these figures. For a copy of the Department for Education and Employment's `A Brief Guide for Higher Education Students' 1997/98, telephone 0171-510 0150.