What funding can I get for my degree?

Published:
20 August 2010
Topic:
News,Money,Student finance

If you've just received your 'A' level results and will be heading off to university next month, you can finally start planning the finer details about life as a student. One key factor will be money - but what sources of funding do you have?

There may never have been a more expensive time to be a student, with the undergraduate website Push warning that average graduate leaves with more than £23,000 in debt.

Therefore, budgeting is important and you need be clear about what money you can rely on during your degree.

So how can you fund your life at uni?

Student loan

If you're only just looking at sorting out your student loan then you really need to get cracking - you've missed the deadline for having your money guaranteed in time for term.

But the quicker you do apply, the more likely you are to have the funding in place before you start, so it's important to move fast.
 
There are two kinds of student loan you take out. A tuition fee loan covers the full amount you're charged for fees (that's up to £3,290 for the new academic year).

Importantly, this is not dependant on your household income; all students can borrow this money and the Student Loans Company will make the payment straight to your university.

Full-time students can also qualify for a maintenance loan - that's the money you'll receive to live on. However, the exact amount you're allowed to borrow depends on your family's income and whether or not you're living at home while you study.

It can also be reduced if you're receiving other financial support such as a special support grant. The maximum you can borrow will be £4,950 - and it's paid to you in three instalments, one at the start of each term.

Scottish students face a similar set-up, but the maximum maintenance loan they can receive is £5,067 a year - again, it depends on income.

Directgov has a student finance calculator that can show you how much you'll be entitled to borrow.

You don't start repaying your student loan until you're earning at least £15,000 at which point it is deducted like a tax, at a rate of 9%.

Maintenance grant

There are some sources of funding that don't have to be repaid but that are only available to students in particular circumstances.

Some undergraduates can receive help through a maintenance grant or special support grant, up to a maximum of £2,906 per academic year but whether or not you qualify depends on your household income - and that means your parents' or guardian's household, unfortunately, not your student flat.

The grants are paid at the start of each term, alongside your maintenance loan.

 

You apply for this help through your main student finance application. If you're wondering whether or not you'll qualify, the Directgov calculator should give you an indication.

As a general rule, you're likely to qualify if you're a single parent, a parent whose partner is also in full-time education, or a student with certain disabilities.

Bursary

Your university or college will provide some students with extra help, whether through cash payments or via discounts on accommodation and other costs, and this money doesn't have to be repaid.

If you are paying the maximum tuition fee and receiving the full maintenance grant or special support grant then your university has to pay you at least the minimum bursary payment. This academic year, that's £329.

Student overdraft

If you open a student account then you will usually be given access to a large overdraft. Most of these accounts offer interest-free overdraft facilities of up to £2,000 and some go as far as £3,000.

Once you finish your degree, your account will usually upgrade to a graduate account, or you can move your overdraft debt over to a more competitive graduate account if you'd like.

Students who do dip into the red during term time may want to work extra hours during the holidays and try to claw back into the black. That way they have emergency funds if they need them.

Whatever you do, don't exceed your overdraft limit; you'll be charged a hefty rate of interest as well as penalty fees.

To see the accounts available and what overdrafts they come with read our article 'Student accounts: Where to begin?'.

A part-time job

Amid all the partying and studying, there should be time for a few hours of work a week - especially in your first year.

This can be a great way to boost the pounds in your pocket. In fact, research by Santander showed almost half of students work to fund their studies.

Lloyds TSB found that undergraduates are clocking up an average of 13.9 hours a week, earning an average of £96.37.

If you can work part-time without it affecting your studies, this is a great way to reduce the amount of debt you'll need to take on. You'll be pleased you did so in the future.

Finance for students with disabilities

There's lots of help available to students with certain disabilities, so if you have a health condition, including certain mental health conditions, or if you have a learning difficulty such as dyslexia, you might qualify for further financial help.

Disabled students' allowances are not affected by your household income and don't have to be repaid - they exist to fund the extra costs you face as a direct result of your disability.

Some students with disabilities may also be able to claim disability living allowance while they study.

In fact, if you are already claiming incapacity benefit, it might be possible to continue receiving it while you're a student - contact the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities for some personalised advice.

Access to Learning Fund

If you're really struggling financially then you can ask your university or college for help from the Access to Learning Fund.

The help you'll receive is worked out on  case-by-case basis, but you could get emergency payments to help you cope with an unexpected crisis, funding towards childcare costs or even support over the summer holidays if you have no one else to turn to.

In order to apply to your university for this funding, you will be expected to have applied for all the other grants, loans and bursaries available to you.

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