At a time when many students are looking to enhance their career prospects by choosing to study for a University degree, they face an unenviable task.
Apart from the challenge of deciding which course, which University and where to live students (and parents) often face the daunting prospect of working out the best way of funding the cost.
Information on the internet can be confusing and sometimes it is difficult to work out the best financial options.
What are my choices?
A combination of funding is available. Tuition fees for the year, now commonly £9000 per annum, are usually met through a loan taken by the student from Student Finance paid directly to the University. This loan is repaid by the student once they start earning, by paying 9% of their annual income above £21,000.
Maintenance loans are also available from Student Finance for those who qualify - up to £5500 outside London (£7675 London). Eligibility is means tested and based on the previous tax return for the student’s parent’s household income. These loans are repayable in the same way.
Separate funding is available through a Maintenance Grant, again based on the student’s parent’s household income. This Maintenance Grant is not repayable. If the household income exceeds £42,611 per annum no grant will be paid but for a student whose household income is £40,000 a grant of £540 would be paid. It is not uncommon for these grants to be overlooked.
Many universities offer Scholarships (indeed must do so for those that qualify if they are charging the maximum £9000 tuition fees) and bursaries (generally based on academic merit). Again these awards are not repayable.
How about funding the gap?
Most students are likely to have an income shortfall, even once available loans and grants have been taken into account. This is when parental support is often necessary.
A recent report of the National Union of Students suggests the average yearly cost of being a student outside London is £8875. Even those figures probably do not take into account the reality of day to day living for many!
Meeting the shortfall can be a problem. In households where parents are separated any
Maintenance payable for the benefit of the children is not taken into account when assessing the student’s parent’s household income so there often scope to sort out some sensible financial planning between the parents.
There may be a court order already in place providing for maintenance to be paid until the completion of full time tertiary education (to cover a first degree course) but many orders only provide for maintenance until the end of full time secondary education.
With sensible planning, discussion and consultation students can often find a way forward that is manageable, affordable and are able to fulfil their dreams.
And in more difficult situations separated parents (and their adult children) often find the family mediation process very helpful rather than the expense of a court application.