How to finance a student

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The Independent Online
THREE years at university is a financial struggle for students and parents alike, writes Vivien Goldsmith.

In a survey on student debt, almost half the students said that their parents were expected to make a contribution. But a quarter of those whose grant is reduced because parents are supposed to be contributing do not receive the full top-up, and 7 per cent receive nothing at all.

The percentage of parents required to help their offspring through college ranges from 54 per cent in London and the South East to 40 per cent in Scotland.

The National Union of Students calculates that even with a full grant and taking out the maximum student loan, the cost of staying at college will leave students pounds 1,000 in debt each year - or pounds 3,000 at the end of a three-year course. In some colleges, the cost of staying in halls of residence is pounds 100 to pounds 500 more than the maximum grant. 'Debt is unavoidable. There are people there to help. We tell students not to bury their heads in the sand,' an NUS spokesman said.

The Independent and Independent on Sunday plan to highlight the way families are coping with the strain higher education imposes by following three families through three years of university.

Barclays Bank is providing pounds 1,000 for each of the three families - half for the parents and half for the student - as an incentive to take part.

Two or three times a year we will ask the student and the parents how they are managing on a tight budget, and we will also ask the parents how they are coping with the added financial strain.

We will try to select a cross- section of students to give an overview of student (and parent) life in the 1990s. The personal finance editor's decision is final.