If you're planning to start uni in 2016, you need to know about this

From September 2016 the maintenance grant for English students is being replaced. 

If you're planning on going to university - or you're already there - you need to know how this will affect you. Here, we take a look at the important facts and figures behind the change. There's still a way to get the grant, too: read on for more.

What's happening?

Currently, students going to university can get a loan to cover their tuition fees. They can also get a loan to cover some of their maintenance costs (for things like accommodation). These loans are added together and students start paying them back once they graduate and start earning over £21,000. 

Separately, students can also receive a maintenance grant. Whether they are eligible for this is entirely dependent on their household income. 

Those with a household income below £25,000 are eligible for the full grant; those with a household income above £42,620 get none of it. Those in between get some, but not all of the grant.

If a student gets some grant money, it replaces some of the maintenance loan they can get. Effectively, they're getting some cash they don't have to pay back. 

From September next year, the government is scrapping the maintenance grant altogether and replacing it with an enlarged maintenance loan.

What does it mean for current students?

If you're currently at uni these changes don't – and won't – affect you at all. 

Your loan and grant arrangements will stay exactly the same and you'll receive the same amount of money. Simples.

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What about prospective students?

If you're a new student in September 2016 your maintenance allowance will all come in the shape of a new, larger loan. 

You'll repay it by contributing 9% of anything you earn over £21,000 to the Giant Government Tax Pot (this may not be a real pot), which is where it came from in the first place. “You can still go to university, the repayments will be the same, but you get the money as a loan not a grant,” says Jeanette Eriksson, postgraduate admissions manager at London Met University. 

Here's how it will work:

  • Your tuition fees will be completely covered by the tuition fee loan
  • You'll definitely get at least 65% of the maximum maintenance loan amount, no matter what your parents earn
  • The remaining 35% will be income-assessed, based on your household earnings

If your total household income is less than £25,000, you'll receive the full maintenance loan of:

  • £6,904 / year if you live at home while at uni
  • £8,200 / year if you live away from home, but not in London
  • £10,702 / year if you live away from home in London

The reactions

You've all had plenty to say about this in the forums. Some of you are on board. “I have no issue at all with this, students will still receive the same amount of money, however the taxpayer won't be on the hook.” (Rakas21) 

Others are not so sure. “In real terms, this *will* force a lot of young people's hands, to not going to university, which does not bode well for the country's prospects in the future.” (Jammy4041)

We also carried out a survey that suggested a lot of you are worried about your finances: 19% of you said the changes to the grant will stop you being able to afford uni; 51% said you'd have to seriously consider whether or not you can afford it. 

Meanwhile, student finance expert Martin Lewis says that new students will actually be better off and that the real problem could be psychological: no-one wants to think about taking on more debt, after all. You can read his thoughts on student finance here. 

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Apply for January entry to get the grant

As these changes won't come in until September 2016, if you apply for January 2016 entry onto a course you'll be able to sneak in under the wire and get the maintenance grant (if you're eligible). 

A January start is a way to fast-track your course, says Eriksson. “Instead of completing it in three years you complete it in two-and-a-half. It doesn't affect any loans or grants, which you apply for in exactly the same way.”

It can help your finances in other ways, too, as your total time at uni will be shorter, so you can save on things like student accommodation. There might be other advantages, too. “The first six months is spent working in smaller groups and you have more time with the tutors, which might benefit you if you want a more personalised experience," says Eriksson. "But really January entry can benefit anybody.” 

Find out more: 
Student Finance England has the lowdown on loans. And you can find lots of information and advice The Student Room's Student Finance section.