Student finance: money matters

The best ways for students to fund their way through higher education

On average, students come out of higher education with around £17,500 worth of debt, but this need not be as scary as it sounds. By taking the available student loans and grants and making the right choices with your banking, this debt can be kept in check. Above all, good budgeting throughout your university years means you can have a big say in how your finances will look when graduation time comes around.

Loans

If you are an eligible student studying in full-time higher education in the UK, you can take out a loan to cover your tuition fees.You can also take out a student loan to help pay accommodation and living costs. You will not have to start paying these back until the year after your course has finished, and until you are earning at least £15,000 a year. The interest on student loans is linked to the rate of inflation so, in real terms, what you repay will be broadly the same as what you borrowed in the first place.

While you are applying for these, you can also seek grants supplied by the government for both tuition fees and maintenance costs. Grants of up to £2,835 are available for 2008/2009; these are staggered depending on the level of income your family earns. If your family income is £25,000 and below, you are eligible for a full grant; if they earn up to £30,000 then it is £2,002, and so on. Even families earning up to £60,000 a year can receive a £50 grant. Of course, the major benefit of these grants is that you don’t have to pay them back!

“As student finance now offers considerably more than repayable loans, [such as] grants and bursaries, people should make sure they don’t miss out on available funding that they won’t have to repay, and should seek out all the detailed information on the various websites, ”advises Ian McLaren Thomson, a spokesperson for the Student Loans Company (SLC).

Most universities now offer a system where, depending on the fee structure, they will be able to help with both tuition and maintenance costs in the form of a bursary. The Government allows them to charge a maximum fee, but only when they have formally signed up to provide bursaries and scholarships for students who are less well-off.

Bear in mind that there are separate systems of loans and grants for each country in the UK, and each differs slightly. For example, Scotland does not charge tuition fees, whereas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, tuition fees are around £3,145 a year. However, these can vary depending on what course is being studied and what university is being attended. It is important you know your fee structure.

Student loans and grants are paid into your bank account once you enrol on the course. Payment is released by the SLC when confirmation of attendance is received from the university. Tuition fee loans are paid direct to the university; maintenance loans and grants are paid in three instalments at the beginning of each term (except in Scotland, where they are paid monthly).

Banking

It is important that you are not drawn to a particular account because of the added incentives that may be offered in the form of free stuff or discounts. This is a financial decision, so think numbers and numbers alone. “Look for the account that offers the cheapest overdraft and the lowest fees – the one that makes the most financial sense,” says Robin Amlot, senior editor at Moneyextra.com Flexibility is also a bonus: online and phone banking means that you will be able to stay in control of your account. Be constantly aware of your account and balance, as this will reduce the chances of sudden changes when you least expect it.

Don’t be afraid of asking for assistance from your bank either; they are the experts, after all. You can generally expect an overdraft on a student account and a four-figure facility will come in very handy, but it is the conditions of this that are crucial: lower rates of interest – or, even better, none at all – will be of huge benefit in the long term.

Budgeting

This may be the first time that you have had to deal with large sums of money and decide what to do with it. Whatever your situation, looking after your money while at university is going to have a huge part to play in how much debt you come out with at the other end.

Don’t allow these decisions to get on top of you though; there is a wealth of online assistance on how to budget effectively (see the Web Watch box on the right) and spending a little time considering where your money will be going before you start can reap many benefits in the long run.

“When you’re preparing to go to uni, freshers’ week, moving in and meeting new friends is higher on the list than finance,” says Jemma Samuels, online manager at Uniaid.

“However, if you can spend a bit of time thinking about your budget before you go, it will make such a difference later on. Housing will be the biggest cost, but students always tell us that they are amazed how socialising and shopping costs really build up over the year.”

It’s also worth thinking about the money coming in; the opportunity to earn additional cash is always there. Some courses have a placement year that offers earning potential, while a part-time job that you can fit around studying can ease your debt burden massively. Think creatively: a bar job in the student union will offer financial rewards twinned with social benefits, for example; a job in a restaurant brings in money and may supply you with cheap or free meals.Don’t forget those student discounts either.Grab all you can – after all, they aren’t going to last forever!

Web watch

Student Loans Company

Information aplenty about loans, grants and bursaries. Also good links to other important student bodies, including Student Finance Direct www.slc.co.uk

Uniaid

Aimed at helping students cope with the financial barriers to higher education. Includes an online calculator to assist with budgeting decisions www.uniaid.org.uk

Moneyextra.com

Personal finance website that covers 90 per cent of the market. Compares the various student accounts to allow you to make the right choice www.moneyextra.com/banking/studentaccounts.html

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines