Student Finance FAQs
What is the ‘Student Loan’?
Student Finance includes a mix of grants (which don’t have to be repaid) and loans (which you do pay back). Your Student Loan is all the repayable funding you apply for – that is, the Tuition Fee Loan and/or Maintenance Loan.
Bear in mind that you may have to repay some grants and extra funding as well if you leave your course early: always get advice before dropping out.
How much are tuition fees in the UK?
Most universities charge £9,250 a year for course fees. However, universities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales charge less (or nothing) to students who already live there or are from the EU. Unfortunately, international students almost always face higher fees.
The good news is that most students from the UK or EU, as well as some other students, can apply for Student Finance, scholarships or fee waivers, all of which make it easy to cover tuition costs.
How much Student Finance will you get?
The Tuition Fees Loan lets you borrow enough money to pay course fees in full, up to £9,250 a year (or up to £6,000 a year at private unis). How much Maintenance Loan you get for living costs depends on your household income and where you live while studying.
The maximum Maintenance Loan that most can apply for is £9,203 a year, though there’s a bit more on offer if you study in London or spend part of your course abroad. Many students will get less than the maximum, so it’s important to check for yourself!
Your funding package may also include support for physical or mental health conditions or cash for parents and carers: payouts for these vary.
Who can get Student Finance?
There are almost as many rules about who can get Student Finance as there are Subway sandwich combos.
At its simplest, you should be eligible for tuition AND maintenance support if you’re studying an approved course at a registered uni and haven’t previously started a degree or similar course.
You’ll also need to be a UK citizen (or have ‘settled’ status) and have been living here for at least three years before your course start date.
While EU students can apply for the Tuition Fees Loan, they won’t usually get help paying living costs. Rules and amounts also vary if you’re a part-time student, over 60, at a private uni, or claiming special circumstances such as refugee status. Contact Student Finance to flesh out the extra details for yourself.
What else do students have to pay for?
Tuition fees may hog the headlines, but for most students, the key to surviving at university is planning for living costs.
These include monthly rent, food, transport, textbooks, and anything else you need to stay alive and on top of your studies.
The average student spends £807/month at uni, though there are ways to pay less or find funding.
When should you apply for Student Finance?
You can start applying for Student Finance the spring before your course starts. You don’t need a confirmed place, so get in early to be paid promptly at the start of term. You can apply as late as nine months after starting, but don’t wait if you need the money!
Either way, allow time to get your paperwork together, plus at least four to six weeks to hear a decision. It’s not as long-winded, but you’ll also need to reapply for funding each year of your course.
All the deadlines you need are right here.
What funding is available if you can’t get Student Finance?
Universities offer a mix of scholarships, bursaries, fee waivers and hardship (emergency) funds. Some charities, companies, councils and professional bodies also award grants and financial support: it’s possible to dig up hidden funding for everything from spiritual or ethical beliefs to what your parents do for a living.
If you can’t get – or don’t want – Student Finance, make sure your salary, savings, family support or other finance is enough to cover the cost of uni.
Will tuition fees change?
Tuition fees have steadily gone up over the last few years, with some students landed with higher fees even after starting a course. Underhanded, yes – however, if you take the Tuition Fees Loan, price rises won’t hurt your future finances.
Monthly loan repayments after uni are determined by your salary, not by how much you borrow.
Will bigger loans lead to more student debt?
While Student Finance helps pay for university, it does usually mean you’ll graduate owing thousands. But, because of the way repayments work, in reality, many students will only pay back a small part of what they borrow.
Use your predicted graduate salary and monthly repayments to see if the loan is right for you, rather than fixating on what you’ll owe. In the meantime, you absolutely do need a plan to deal with everyday debt such as student overdrafts, credit cards and other kinds of borrowing.
Can you afford university?
Only you can decide if the university is affordable for you. There’s a lot of funding out there, some of it ring-fenced to ensure poorer students aren’t left out.
That said, almost everyone finds it easier with extra income or family support, as many struggles to get by on Student Finance alone. However you play it, a money plan is a must!
It’s likely your parents are going to have lots of questions about Student Finance too – which is why we created our parents’ guide to university just for them.
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