Money - it's a subject guaranteed to bring most students out in a cold sweat. But there are plenty of ways to ease the financial burden

The average student spends approximately £5,000-£6,000 a year. You or your parents will have to pay most of this. BUT don't panic. You don't have to pay it all at once and there are sources of assistance available, especially if your family income is low. Don't miss out on any help that you may be entitled to from the government. You will need to check carefully because it varies in the different parts of the UK.

The average student spends approximately £5,000-£6,000 a year. You or your parents will have to pay most of this. BUT don't panic. You don't have to pay it all at once and there are sources of assistance available, especially if your family income is low. Don't miss out on any help that you may be entitled to from the government. You will need to check carefully because it varies in the different parts of the UK.

GOVERNMENT FUNDING

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, most of your annual tuition fee will be paid for you. While overseas students are charged the full amount - which varies according to the course - you will be expected to make a contribution, according to your family's income. The most anyone will have to pay is £1,125. If the residual income (gross income minus certain allowances) is less than £20,970, you will pay no fees. Between £20,970 and £31,230 (£34,469 in Northern Ireland) you will have to make a partial contribution and over that, pay the full £1,125. Information on Scotland is given in the section headed "Grants".

LOANS

The student loan is the next major source of money. Part of the amount is means-tested against family income - but everyone, regardless of income, may borrow up to 75 per cent of the maximum loan available. The amount available also depends on where you study. If you will be living away from your parents' home and studying in London you will be able to borrow up to a maximum of £4,930. For students living away from home and studying outside London the maximum is £4,000, and if you live at home, £3,165. From 2005 the threshold at which you have to start repaying the loan goes up to £15,000. Monthly repayments will be linked to how much you earn - and collected by the Inland Revenue with your income tax. Currently, on a salary of £15,000 your maximum monthly payment would be £37.

GRANTS

Grants don't have to be repaid and are available to students from low-income families. This is where the system changes from country to country.

In England, there are 10,000 Opportunity Bursaries of £2,000. In order to qualify for one you must be under 21, from a family with little or no experience of higher education and live in a designated area. Your school or college will know if this is the case.

In Northern Ireland, bursaries are available to all students from families whose residual income is less than £20,000. They are means tested and worth from £165 to £2,000.

Wales has Assembly Learning Grants worth from £450 to £1,500 for students from families where residual income is below £15,000.

Scottish students who study outside Scotland are liable for an income-assessed contribution of £1,125 a year towards the cost of tuition and may also be eligible for a Young Student's Outside Scotland Bursary of up to £520 a year. If you are a Scottish resident and attend a Scottish higher education institution you won't have to pay tuition fees. You will have to pay a graduate endowment, currently £2,030, when you have qualified - unless you are in one of several exempt categories (probably around 50 per cent of graduates). Young Student Bursaries are available and are worth up to £2,100. Again these depend on income. As an example, if your family's residual income is less than £10,490 you will get the full amount. At £15,000 it is £1,354 and at £25,000, £240. Scottish students can also apply for Student Loans - maximum £4,000 if living away from home and £3,165 if staying at home (higher if studying in London).

OTHER SOURCES

In all four countries of the UK, universities and colleges have sums of money to award as additional loans and grants from their Hardship Funds (Financial Contingency Funds in Wales.)

Priority is given to students with severe financial difficulties. Extra help is available to students with disabilities and students leaving care - who may need medical equipment or accommodation in long vacations.

MEDICAL COURSES

If you study audiology, chiropody, dental hygiene, dental therapy, dietetics, midwifery, nursing, occupational therapy, operating department practice, orthoptics, physiotherapy, podiatry, prosthetics and orthotics, radiography and speech therapy - and have an NHS-funded place - you will get free tuition and can also apply for a means-tested bursary. Nor will you pay fees after the fourth year of a degree in medicine or dentistry. Nursing diplomas are funded differently. They get free tuition plus non-means tested bursaries of over £5,000. In Scotland, students on nursing and midwifery degrees and diplomas are entitled to free tuition and non means tested bursaries of £5,430 a year if under the age of 26.

MONEY FROM ELSEWHERE

That exhausts state funding. But there are other ways of increasing your income. You might be able to get a sponsorship from industry or commerce - with strings attached, like working for the sponsor during a gap year or summer vacation.

Scholarships from universities and colleges are worth investigating. They are awarded for all sorts of things - like high entry grades or ability in sport or music - and can be one-off payments or annual. Be warned though, if you get more than £4,000 in scholarships or sponsorship, your entitlement to government support will be affected.

Charitable trusts may be able to help but can give only small amounts. Banks will let you have an overdraft - but they want the money back pretty quickly if you exceed the agreed amount.

EMPLOYMENT

Most students now have jobs and many universities and colleges have Job Shops to help you find employment. Employers will have to pay you the national minimum wage which rises to £3.80 an hour for workers between 18 and 21 in October. BUT many higher education institutions advise no more than 15 hours a week. Otherwise, your work could suffer. (For sources of further information see page 37.)

HOW TO BUDGET

Budget? You? Surely that's something the Government does every year? Yes, but it's also something students need to do. Why? You don't want to live on baked beans and rice for a term because you splurged all your money in the first two weeks do you?

Drawing up a budget can make all the difference between slaving at a tedious summer job to pay for a holiday or doing the same just to catch up with yourself and pay off the overdraft. It needn't be complicated. Just get a pen and paper. Then try to add up all your incoming money (from loan, any grant or scholarship, savings, part-time work, parents...).

Next come your estimated outgoings. Scary! These are: tuition fees (possibly), accommodation, food, books, travel, clothes. You now subtract the outgoings from the incomings and what's left is yours to spend. OK, it's depressing, but at least you'll see where there's scope for economising.

TRIED AND TESTED TIPS

Compare account-opening goodies and loans and interest rates from different banks. Make a list before shopping - and stick to it unless there are special offers. Use all the Union facilities, including bars and entertainment - they're cheaper. If you are going into self-catering accommodation, learn to cook! Use clubs and pubs that give student discounts. Take cash, not credit cards, on nights out. You won't overspend then.

Get National Union of Student, rail and bus cards. Don't buy every book; wait to see which are essential. Don't enrol in too many societies at the Freshers' Fair. You can still join later.

WHAT IT COSTS

LINDSEY MALLALUE. Final year. Paediatric Nursing Student. Leeds University

I rent a house with three friends for £49 a week plus £10 a month for water. We each spend about £60 a month on food and household stuff.

My weekly expenditure varies because when I am on clinical placement I might have to spend £10 a week on fares.

When I am at the university an average week might look like this:

Monday
Walk to uni so no fares. £3.50 for a sandwich and soft drink at lunchtime. Cook supper together.

Tuesday
Similar to Monday. Eat in again and rent a video.

Wednesday
A half day, so make lunch at home. Cook again in the evening too. Then go out to a pub. It's promotion night, so drinks are £1. Say £5 for the evening.

Thursday
Uni all day again. Go to a really good local restaurant where you can fill up for £10.

Friday
Uni all day. I work on Friday evenings in a club - so a quick and easy supper. Maybe a pizza. Free security bus home.

Saturday
Up late after last night. Go into town to look at shops. Look is the word. Either eat in followed by a club OR do another evening shift at work.

Sunday
Meet up with friends in a pub. Real prices now - £3.20 a drink.

I probably spend £40-£50 a week on socialising. A Saturday night in a club costs £30, so a week with one of those pushes up the total. (Mid-week it's £15 - £20.)

'MONEY CAN SLIP THROUGH YOUR FINGERS'

MIKE LAMB. Third year. Sports and exercise science. University of Gloucestershire

I started my first year with savings of £1,500. I ended it over £2,000 in debt. I had some heavy expenses - but even so, I managed more badly than any of my friends. Money just disappeared in the first week! I had to pay a term's rent - and accommodation was particularly expensive. My self-catering hall cost £2,944.60 for the year. I also had tuition fees to pay and books to buy. But I also made lots of mistakes. I was a typical student, I suppose. I felt rich with my savings and my loan. I also had accounts with two banks. I drew out whatever I needed, lived on microwaveable meals and went out a lot. My social life was awesome. I went out almost every night for a while. There was a free bus to take to us into Cheltenham, where clubs are good. But I ended up paying for taxis home. Drinks at £1 or £1.50 sound like a bargain, but when you add them all up... I also spent £30-£40 a month on my mobile phone.

One bank got rather nasty about my so-called overdraft even though I was actually still within the limit. My father paid that off but I now have to work over the summer just to repay him.

I don't want to be £3,500 down next year - but I have plans! I'm moving into a shared house at a much lower rent. And I'm aiming to restrict myself to spending £25 a week on social life.

My advice to new students is: money can just slip through your fingers. Don't buy anything you don't really need. Cut down on night life. And don't use credit cards.

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