Parents' guide to student finance: Nudge, point and advise, but avoid taking over
Monday 13 August 2012
So what can parents do? Put simply, help out if you can. Students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, will have higher income levels than ever before but many will still feel the pinch, particularly as there are fewer part-time jobs around.
Students should always borrow the maximum student loan every year. The Student Loans Company provides the cheapest form of long term borrowing around – if they don't need the money, they can put it in a high rate savings account and make a profit on the interest to help the transition to graduate life.
Give your consent to share your financial information, even if you believe your household income is too high for your child to qualify for any awards. "Other factors are taken into consideration, like having younger siblings still living at home," says Claire Evenden, senior student finance manager at the University of Greenwich. "And if you don't agree to a financial income assessment then your child can't apply for the Access to Learning fund if they do run into trouble."
Encourage students going through clearing to ask about bursaries and scholarships. "There's no embarrassment in asking these questions," says Emma Manning of De Montfort's student finance team. "Get what you're entitled to. It can make a big difference."
If they need to go into private rented accommodation, check contracts for hidden nasties. You may be asked to act as guarantor, but ensure you're not liable if others in the house drop out.
Check whether your existing household insurance policy covers a student living away from home. If not, make sure they take out contents insurance. "It's a false economy not to," says student finance expert Elaine Cox of De Montfort University.
Part-time jobs can be a great way of topping up income and gaining valuable work experience. But check your child is on the right tax code – if they earn less than £8,105 a year, they shouldn't pay any tax.
And finally, make sure it's your offspring, not you, doing the research and making the decisions. "However tempting it is to take over, you need to step back and let them stand on their own two feet," says Evenden.
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