Parents dig deep to finance student life

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The Independent Online

Students have never been more dependent on their parents for financial help. Every penny that their parents can give them is gratefully received but what is the best way for parents to support their debt-ridden kids?

Students have never been more dependent on their parents for financial help. Every penny that their parents can give them is gratefully received but what is the best way for parents to support their debt-ridden kids?

Kerstin Pereira runs the students union advice centre at Hull University and says: "Parental help depends on the relationship between parents and children and what the parents can afford. Some parents pay their children regular sums of money throughout the year, others make an occasional contribution while others will pay for their child's accommodation for the whole year." In her view the most important thing is for parents to "help their children understand about good budgeting, whether that means giving their child a regular allowance or coming up and taking them to Tesco. Parents need to do what is best for their child."

Craig Hopper, 20, is at Liverpool University doing a degree in mechanical engineering. He is now in his second year and is about £4,500 overdrawn. His parents have helped him out as much as they can but they do not have much spare cash and it has been difficult for them, as Mrs Hopper explains: "Both me and my husband work at the local factory and we work shifts. We have both been doing an extra day a month to pay for Craig's tuition fees and to send him £100 a month. We don't mind the extra work because we think if he gets his degree it will have been really worth the sacrifice. It is just a pity students don't get help from the Government; it is really hard for the kids to survive on the pitiful loan they get."

Some parents help out by buying their children mobile phones but Kerstin Pereira is wary of this, as she says: "Mobile phones are very popular but my concern is that students can quickly lose track of how much money they have spent. Think about what your child's needs really are and be careful to select a package that will keep the phone bills down."

Cash contributions are always welcome but it is usually best for parents to make monthly credits into their child's bank account rather than pay out one lump sum. If parents have a large sum of money to invest they could think about buying a small flat or house for their child to share with friends and then work out how much rent to charge and how to pay the bills.

It is also a good idea for parents to think about setting up savings schemes to send their children to university. As Mr and Mrs O'Nion say on the UCAS website: "When we first heard that we would have to pay tuition fees, we decided to start a savings scheme and, in hindsight, we wish we had been able to start earlier. Our advice to other parents is simple: no matter how young your son or daughter is at present, put a little aside each month to help them in the future."

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