It’s going to be on your mind throughout your university years, and probably for the rest of your life, so you may as well learn all you need to know about student finance right here.
The funding for your tuition fees and accommodation has to come from somewhere, and that’s from student loans.
Firstly, if you haven’t already sorted a student loan, you should head on over to one of the many government websites available to find out more: direct.gov.uk/en/educationandlearning, studentfinancewales.co.uk, studentfinanceni.co.uk and saas.gov.uk
As the name would imply, the Tuition Fee Loan covers your tuition fees for each university course. It is paid directly to the university or college, which means there’s no enticement to spending it. Since 2012, the maximum tuition fees are £9,000 annually.
However, if you’re from Wales then the government provides financial cover for anything above the £3,375 margin, regardless of which UK country you choose to study in. Anyone coming into Wales to study from elsewhere in the UK will still be subject to maximum £9k fees.
Full-time students from England can submit an application for loans to cover the full cost of their tuition fees, and maintenance grants and loans to aid living costs. How much they receive depends on where they live and study and on their household’s income.
You will need to start repaying the loan in the April after you graduate or leave your course, so long as you are earning more than £15,000 per year.
Part-time students can apply for grants of up to £1,495 in total to help with tuition and study costs if their household income is below £28,066.
Maintenance Loans are proposed to help with living costs, and are accessible to all full-time students under the age of 60, or under 50 if you’re in Scotland. The finance is paid to you in three instalments: one at the start of each university term. It is important to note that that in your final year, the student loan amounts will be lower because they do not cover the summer months after you’ve left university.
A student loan will accumulate interest from the date it’s paid out until the date it’s paid back in full. The interest rate for student loans is generally set in September each year, based on the rate of inflation from the previous March.
For example, from 1st September 2013 until 31st August 2014 the interest rate is 1.5%, meaning that if you borrowed £1,000 to begin with, then by the end of the year you’d owe £1,015.
Fortunately, compared to regular bank loans, the interest rate for students is moderately low. You only start paying your Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan back when you’re earning over a certain amount in full time employment.
Considering getting a credit card but worried about managing your finances at university? Only go for one if you know you can pay back on time – and make sure it’s a student credit card! Having a student credit card is a very good way of boosting your credit rating – a file that contains a history of all your financial borrowing, including loans, credit cards and store cards. If you pay back everything on time and don’t go over your credit card limit, then there will be no black marks against your name and it will be easier to borrow money in the future.
You should contact your university to find out what sort of bursaries and other financial help it offers. Many institutions propose to check whether you are getting the right overall package of financial support or not.