The fees that lie behind degrees

Tuition fees, paid for by taking out student loans, are now a fact of life for students.
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The Independent Online

Being a student is a costly business. Bills and demands for money come flying at you from all sides and the first pieces of paperwork to tackle are concerned with paying for your fees and applying for your student loan. The maximum tuition fee for 2000/2001 is £1,050. The amount you have to pay depends on your parents' income and your contribution is assessed by your Local Education Authority (LEA) if you live in England or Wales. If you live in Scotland, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) will assess you, and if you live in Northern Ireland, your Northern Ireland Education and Library Board will assess you.

Being a student is a costly business. Bills and demands for money come flying at you from all sides and the first pieces of paperwork to tackle are concerned with paying for your fees and applying for your student loan. The maximum tuition fee for 2000/2001 is £1,050. The amount you have to pay depends on your parents' income and your contribution is assessed by your Local Education Authority (LEA) if you live in England or Wales. If you live in Scotland, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) will assess you, and if you live in Northern Ireland, your Northern Ireland Education and Library Board will assess you.

No contribution is required from students whose parents' residual income is less than £17,805. Other factors which affect the amount of support you can get towards your tuition fees are, as the UCAS website explains: "Whether you study full-time or part-time and which course you study (for example, you are not required to pay fees for some teaching and medical courses); whether or not you study at a publicly funded university or college; whether you have previously received Government support for an higher education course and whether you meet a residence requirement."

Students should apply to their Local Education Authority as soon as possible for financial help but there is a four-month deadline from the start of the academic year in which to apply for support. As soon as you receive the application form from your LEA, fill it in and return it. Even if you think that you wil not be eligible for assitance with your loan, you still need to send it back. Your LEA will then tell you whether you are eligible for help with your tuition fees and a student loan. You then need to fill in a Financial Form and return it to your LEA. You will then be informed, in your Financial Notification, how much you and your parents will have to contribute towards your fees, and the maximum amount of student loan you can borrow. Seventy-five per cent of the maximum loan is offered to all eligible students and the remaining 25 per cent of your loan is means-tested on your parental income.

The maximum amount of loan that you can get depends, as the Government's booklet, Financial Support for Higher Education Students in 2000/2001, explains, "on where you live and study, which course you study, which year of your course you are on, how much you and your family are expected to contribute and the length of your academic year".

The SLC will process your loan application and you will usually be paid your loan in three instalments "to help you budget more effectively". You don't have to worry about repayments until the April after you have finished or left your course and the amount you repay is linked to your income. You are expected to repay 9 per cent of your annual income over £10,000.

If you spend all your loan and fall on really hard times hardship loans and access funds are available through your college so contact your student welfare officer and ask for advice.

If you are an independent or mature student your parents will not be expected to contribute to your fees or living costs. You will be classified as an independent student if you are over 25, you have been married for at least two years before the start of the academic year which you are applying for, or you have supported yourself for at least three years before you start your course. Next Sunday's Go Higher will focus on mature students.

 

'Financial Support for Higher Education Students in 2000/2001' is published by the DfEE and is available from www.dfee.gov.uk/studentsupport/, or by calling free on 0800-731 9133

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