Money Talk

What to do if you haven't got it - how to make the most of it if you do. By Wendy Berliner
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The Independent Online

By now you should have an idea of how much you are likely to have to pay for your higher education tuition and how much you will probably get in loans and grants or bursaries if you qualify for them.

By now you should have an idea of how much you are likely to have to pay for your higher education tuition and how much you will probably get in loans and grants or bursaries if you qualify for them.

To recap, the facts are as follows:

Tuition fees

* In England, Wales and Northern Ireland there is an annual tuition fee payable towards the cost of your higher education course. In Scotland, there are tuition fees (payable for three years) for UK students who do not already live in Scotland. For this coming academic year the most any UK student will have to pay is £1,150 a year.

* What you pay depends upon your family income. The majority of you will only pay part of that fee and some of you will pay nothing.

* In England and Wales if your family income is less than £21,475 after deductions for things like pension payments and dependent children, you pay nothing

* If your family income is between £21,475 and £31,972 after deductions, you pay part fees on a sliding scale

* Income scales are more generous for Northern Ireland students

* Northern Ireland students studying in the Republic of Ireland have their tuition fees paid by the Irish government.

* If you live in Scotland and study there, you do not pay up front tuition fees but pay a graduate endowment (currently £2,092) on graduation and can take out a student loan to pay it if you need to

* Scottish students studying in other parts of the UK are subject to means tested tuition fee

Grants and bursaries

* New students starting higher education this September in England and Wales may be entitled to a non-repayable Higher Education Grant of up to £1,000 a year, depending on family income

* Welsh Assembly Learning Grants may additionally be available for the least well-off students in Wales

* Northern Ireland students from the least well-off homes qualify for a non-repayable bursary of up to £2,000. Household income has to be less than £20,500 to get help and below £10,250 to get the full bursary

* Other grants are also available such as those for mature students, student parents, disabled students or for young people who are leaving care

* the maximum bursary if you are studying in Scotland is £2,150 a year payable if your family income is £10,740 or less a year, although you will get some help on a sliding scale until your family income is close to £28,000.

* A means-tested bursary of £530 is payable on top of student loan to Scottish students studying in another part of the UK

* NHS bursaries are available for pre-registration health professional courses

Loans

The maximum student loan is £5,050 for the next academic year if you are a higher education student in London and living away from home; £4,095 if you are studying outside London and living away from home; £3,240 wherever you are studying if you live at home

* you are entitled to take out up to 75 per cent of the maximum loan, regardless of family income. The final 25 per cent is means tested

* you will not have to start paying back your loan until your income reaches £15,000 per annum

* the maximum loan available in Scotland if you are living away from home is £4,095. Additional loan is available to students from the poorest families

Scholarships and sponsorships

Some universities offer scholarships for able students either in advance of their arrival or dependent on the grades they get during their first year. You should have come across these during your research for your courses but if you go into Clearing, it is something to ask about.

Sponsorships are offered by sections of industry, commerce and the armed services but they are highly competitive. You will be expected to do paid work in your university or college vacation for your sponsor. Sponsorships may be something to consider if your plans have changed this year because your grades have not worked out.

Charities and trusts

Local trusts and charities might help if you come from a disadvantaged background. Your local reference library should have a copy of the Trusts and Charities reference book. Or you may be able to access Moneysearch, a software package which includes a database of trusts and charities students can approach.

Spending it

The average student living away from home spends £5,000-£6,000 a year on tuition and living expenses such as accommodation, food, travel, books and equipment and social activities.

It doesn't take a maths student to notice that there can be quite a gap between the maximum student loan and your outgoings unless you budget carefully or find alternative sources of income.

Budgeting

It's really easy to budget. What you have to do is sit down at your computer or at your desk with a pen and some paper and work out exactly how much you are going to get in money over your first student year. Include any tuition fee remission or grants, plus your student loan and any extra money people are willing or able to give you.

Then you have to work out what your living costs will be - include your accommodation, food, laundry, travel, books, social life and special spending you are likely to incur such as running a car or a costly sport or hobby. Then you subtract one from the other and you know whether you're likely to be in credit or debit.

But how do you work out what everything costs when you have never lived away from home before ? We asked an expert how much it all costs. Helen Thomas, a 20-year-old student who has just finished her second year at university. Helen is studying English at the University of Warwick.

On accommodation...

"In the past year my accommodation has cost £200 a month although in my final year it's going to cost £250 because we're moving to a better area. I share a house with four other girls and we share the household bills. My share of the gas costs about £20 a quarter and electric about the same. We were terrible during the winter - we kept the heating on all the time! We have a land line but we have a deal where all calls after 6pm are free, which is very good - mobiles can be so expensive. We pay about £15 a month for broadband."

On food...

"If I'm good, I spend £20-£25 a week on food, but if I'm not... I tend to eat out quite a lot. So many places offer cheaper meals for students. When you are shopping, there is no need to just buy economy food. You soon get to know which of the value stuff is all right and you can still eat well on a budget. Some people go mad and try to live on £5 a week and just buy tins of spaghetti hoops - but there is no need."

On laundry...

"We have a washing machine here but when I was in a hall of residence in the first year it cost me about 90p to do a clothes wash."

On travel...

"I've saved money by buying a Stagecoach university pass which gives me unlimited bus travel in this area. The pass costs £180 but covers all three terms."

On social life...

"Social life can cost you quite a lot if you live off campus. I think it might cost even more next year - our new house is opposite a cocktail bar! I usually go out once a week for a big night out and then perhaps go out for a drink on one or two other nights. It depends on how much work I've got on. If I have lots of essays to do, I don't go out at all! A night out costs me about £20 but, to save money, what you should do is make sure you start off or finish off at someone's house and drink stuff that's been bought at a supermarket. In fact it's good to have house parties because they are cheap!

On text books...

"I spend a lot on books connected with the English literature part of my course - about £350 a year - but you don't have to buy everything new; second- and third- year students sell on texts they no longer need."

Plugging the gap

Unless you are exceptionally fortunate and have parents who are willing and able to transfer money from their bank accounts to yours when you run into the red, most of you will eventually find yourself taking on paid work to offset some of the bills.

Some universities (such as Oxford and Cambridge) frown very deeply if you even hint that you might work in term time. Most, though, accept that a lot of you will have to do it - some, such as Warwick, even provide job centres on campus and use students to do all kinds of work within the university or college.

The best advice is to limit the amount of time you spend on paid work because research done at South Bank University suggests that students doing more than 15 hours paid work a week begin to perceive they are harming their studies. Nearly half of students working in term time surveyed for the research felt they could not devote enough time to their studies, got tired, felt very overloaded and missed classes because of their work.The same research, incidentally, showed that nearly one quarter of students were being paid below the minimum wage.

You go into higher education to get a good qualification. Don't ruin it by spending too much time cleaning toilets.

If you run into trouble

All universities and colleges will have hardship funds available for students who run into serious trouble with their finances. The emphasis here is on the word serious. These are not funds for people whose credit card is a bit over due but for people who are at serious risk of having to drop out of higher education if they don't get some urgent help. Student union welfare departments may also be able to help out in an emergency

FURTHER INFORMATION

From your local education authority, education and library board.

Students in England and Wales: www.studentsupportdirect.co.uk; Students in Scotland: www.student-support-saas.gov.uk or contact the Student Awards Agency for Scotland: 0131 476 8212; Students in Northern Ireland: www.delni.gov.uk/studentsupport or contact the Student Support Branch of the Department for Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland) on 028 9025 7710

Scholarships/sponsorships www.studentmoney.org

www.support4learning.org.uk

Educational Grants Advisory Service: 020-7254 6251

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