Between pricey accommodation and a long list of lectures, university expenses add up – and quickly. While investing in the future is exciting, it can be equally daunting.
Whether a student is planning to get student loans to finance their education or rely on a helping hand from the Bank of Mum and Dad, there’s a lot of information to take in. Not sure where to start? We’ve rounded up the need-to-know-now student finance tips – for parents and students.
The bottom line
UK universities can charge up to £9,250 in tuition fees – though some charge less, so make sure you check. Living costs are location-dependent; most universities offer an estimate of what students will need.
A Student Finance loan is your friend
All UK students can get full tuition-fee loans from student finance, but maintenance loans depend on household income, where they study, and how long for. The calculator at gov.uk/student-finance-calculator will help you work out what you’re eligible for. Generally though, the higher your family’s household income, the lower the amount they’ll get. If a student is studying in London, their maintenance loan will also be higher.
It’s important to note that student debt won’t affect a student’s credit rating and is wiped after 30 years (assuming that whichever government is in power by then doesn’t change the terms in the meantime). Your child will only have to repay a percentage of what they earn over a certain threshold, so if you’re not sure they will be a high earner for most of their career, a loan could save you both money.
Check out gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan for details.
Think outside the box
Student finance is the main source of university funding, but there’s a whole world of scholarships and bursaries out. “There are also thousands of overlooked grants offered by universities, private companies, and charities every year. Unlike loans, most of these funds don’t need to be paid back,” says Dr Dominique Thompson, a young people’s mental health expert.
Scholarships are often available for those who display academic excellence with strong A-Level results or for those with aptitude for extracurricular work such as musical or sporting ability. Charities sometimes offer bursaries and grants to students in need or those with specific personal circumstances. Students might also find some financial assistance from the industry they want to go into, sometimes under the provision that they take a job for a certain amount of time with the company which has offered funding. Finally, there are marketing scholarships which may pay students to promote products on campus.
Surprisingly, many scholarships and grants remain mostly unknown and don’t attract enough applicants, so the numbers are stacked in favor of those who do apply.
Check out the Scholarship Hub: thescholarshiphub.org.uk.
Decide what you can give
Even with all the support available, many students still end up looking to their families for help. Sit down with your child and work out a budget and discuss how you might chip in.
Teach them basics
University may be the first time your child has managed their own money. Take your child on a food shop, practice a few simple recipes at home, get them to pay their own phone bill for a while, all to give them an idea of how much things cost.
Don’t dread student debt
Remember: no amount of student debt will prevent you from taking out another loan, credit card or mortgage once you graduate. You’ll never be asked to repay more than you can. Most graduates don’t even notice the student loan coming out of their pay check each month.
speak to your university
“Universities have been allocated funding for student hardship and mental health support. Search ‘student funding’ on your university’s website,” says Dr Thompson. Your department head might also be able to offer advice on specific scholarships available through your course.
Hit the jobs board
If you plan to work part-time, get your CV ready to go for when you move to university. “Working part-time will help balance finances in the moment, and help for future job prospects, too,” says Adam Bullock, UK director of money-saving website TopCashback. “With the wealth of websites that cater to remote working, job opportunities are no longer confined to a university city.”
Keep an eye on jobs offered by the university itself too, these are often designed to fit seamlessly around your studies, and if you’re already on campus you won’t have to pay to commute.
Don’t wing it – budget
One way to alleviate financial stress is to figure out your incomings and outgoings and, hey presto, you have a budget. Experts at student discount website Student Beans suggest adopting the 50/30/20 rule as an easy way to budget money – 50 per cent of your income should go towards necessities, 30 per cent on leisure, and 20 per cent should go towards savings.
When looking for a student account, don’t be distracted by offers of shopping vouchers and freebies. “Check what each bank is offering and decide if it’s right for you,” says Anthony Morrow, co-founder of financial advice service OpenMoney. “While an interest-free overdraft is a great idea, remember that it is not free money. You will need to have a repayment plan.”
Bullock suggests downloading banking apps like Splitwise, Monzo and Yolt which allow students to manage bills and see exactly what they’re spending on, leaving little space for overspending. “Budgeting at university paves the way to a financially stable future.”