Once your university application has been sent off and you're in the middle of receiving interviews and offers, the next thing you have to think about is student finance. University can be expensive, but there are many sources of funding to help you pay your tuition fees and go towards your living costs. This guide will take you through the process of applying for what is for most people the main source of university funding - through your local authority and the Student Loans Company. Read on to find out how to get help with tuition fees, what loans and grants you can apply for, and what part your local education authority and the Student Loans Company play in all of this.
Please read the relevant sections of this article carefully and, if you still can't find the answer to your question, have a browse through our Money and Finance forum. If your question has still not been answered, feel free to create a new thread and get advice from other members of the forum.
For a list of useful resources for University Funding, click here.
How much will I have to pay for my university tuition?
If you are from any part of the UK other than Scotland (or if you are from Scotland, but choose to study in another part of the UK) you will be charged a "Tuition Fee" by your university.
If you’re a new student (or a continuing student who started your course in or after September 2006) the maximum tuition fees you’ll be charged are £3,290 for the 2010/11 academic year. For 2009/10, the maximum is £3,225.
Exactly what you’re charged depends on the university or college you attend, your course, and where in the UK you study. Check your university or college prospectus to find out the fees for your course.
You can get a Tuition Fee Loan to cover the full cost of your tuition fees. This is paid directly to your university or college. The amount you get does not depend on household income.
There are no regulations stating how much universities or colleges can charge in tuition fees for most part-time courses.
Check with your university or college how much they charge. It’s also worth finding out how much the fees are likely to rise over the length of your course.
What types of funding are available?
Student Loan for Tuition Fees
If you are from any part of the UK other than Scotland (or if you are from Scotland, but choose to study in another part of the UK) you will be charged a "Tuition Fee" by your university, as described above.
However, you do not have to pay this fee in advance, because you can take out a "Student Loan for Tuition Fees". This type of loan is not based on your parents' income, and you do not need to repay it until you have graduated and are earning over £15,000 p.a. If you earn less than £15,000 at any point after you graduate, your repayments will cease, and will only recommence if you start earning over £15,000 again. If any of your loan remains unpaid after 25 years, the government will "write off" the outstanding balance.
Your Student Loan for Tuition Fees will cover the exact cost of your course. However, as you will presumably need to sleep somewhere and eat during your time at university, there are also a couple of other types of finance, to cover your living cost, or your "maintenance".
Student Loans and Grants for Maintenance
You can get a low-interest loan to cover the general cost of living, which includes everything from accommodation and food to books and train-tickets. It is entirely separate from the Tuition Fee Loan and, unlike the Tuition Fee Loan, the amount you get may depend partly on how much your parents earn. Those from low income backgrounds also have access to non-repayable grants.
Please visit the SLC to see exactly how much you can borrow.
If you are in full receipt of the Student Loan for Maintenance and the Grant for Maintenance (or regional equivalent), you will also be entitled to a minimum of £310 from your university, in the form of a non-repayable bursary. Many universities are currently offering much more than this. Even if you are not in full receipt of the government loans and grants, your university may still give you a partial bursary. As the actual figure varies from university to university, you will need to look at your chosen university's website and/or contact them to find out whether how large a bursary you may be entitled to, if any.
You do not have to apply separately for a university bursary; all you need to do is select the option to "share your details" with the university when you apply for your student loans through the Student Loans Company. They will then pass on your details to your firm-choice university, and if you are entitled to any money the university will take care of the process of getting it to you.
If you have children you could be entitled to help with your childcare. It depends on your household income and is based on 85% of your childcare costs. The maximum available is £148.75 per week if you have one child and £250 per week if you have two or more children.
There is information on funding for disabled students here.
Financial Contingency Funds
Also known as "Hardship Funds". You do not need to worry about this type of funding before you get to university, but for those of you who are concerned that you might not be able to make ends meet if something goes wrong: most universities will have some sort of "hardship" scheme in place, if you really begin to struggle financially once you're there. It is best to contact the universities of your choice to find out their policy in such circumstances.
These may be available to students on pre-registration health professional training courses. For more information, visit the NHS Student Bursaries website.
Other Types of Funding
Many universities will also offer their own special bursaries; for example, sometimes there is funding available to students studying on an under-subscribed course, whilst some male-dominated courses give extra money to female students. Many universities also give small book grants, travelling grants and achievement grants. As all of these things are university-specific, you will need to contact your university, or search on their website for further information.
How do I apply?
Now that you have a better understanding of the funding available, you need to know how to get it. The description below is of the online process; if you wish to apply on paper, you can either contact your LA and ask them to post you a form or request one from your school.
If you choose to apply online, you will need to register with the Student Loans Company, through the relevant site, before you do anything else.
- English students should go through Student Finance Direct
- Welsh students should go through Student Finance Wales
- Scottish students should go through the Student Awards Agency for Scotland
- Northern Irish students should go through Student Finance NI
Once you have registered, you will be able to start filling in your application. Quite helpfully, there are little question marks next to most of the fields, so if you're not sure what you should write at any stage, you'll hopefully be able to find out the answer by clicking that. However, here are some of the more frequently asked questions, for ease's sake:
Dependent and independent students
What is the difference between a dependent and an independent student?
A dependent student is one who is under 25; not married/in a civil partnership; has no dependant children and has not been financially self-dependent for three years or more before the start of the course. An independent student is one who is over 25; has care of a child/children; is married/in a civil partnership; is divorced/had their civil partnership dissolved; has been financially self-dependent for three years or more before the start of the course, or has no living parents. Dependent students may have their Student Loan for Maintenance "means-tested" (based on their parents' income) if they wish; independent students will not have their Student Loan for Maintenance "means-tested" unless they are married/in a civil partnership, in which case their loan may be tested based on their spouse's/partner's income.
Means-tested and non-means-tested loans
What is the difference between a means-tested loan and a non-means-tested loan?
"Means-testing" applies to Student Loans for Maintenance, and works by using your parents' income to calculate how much you should get. Whether you apply for means-testing or not, if you are eligible to receive anything at all, you will be entitled to 75% of the maximum loans (listed above under "What types of funding are available"). You do not have to apply for means-testing (i.e. you could just take your 75% and leave it at that), but if you do apply for means-testing, how much of the remaining 25% will be paid to you is based on your parents'/spouse's/partner's income (i.e. your "household income"), if applicable. So if your household income is very high, you may not get any of the remaining 25%; if your household income is very low, you may receive it all. You can use the students finance calculators (under "What types of funding are available", above) to get a better estimate of your entitlement.
Do I have to declare my own income?
If your own earnings come from paid work, you should not disclose them, and they do not count towards your "household income" for the purposes of means-testing. However, you must disclose any unearned income. This might include: income from property, lettings, rent, trusts, building society interest, investments or sponsorship. You should not include maintenance payments you expect to receive for your children (if you have any, that is!).
Sharing of Personal Details
Why would the SLC want to share my details with a university?
Whilst filling in your application, you will come across a tick-box preceded by the question:
"Your university or college may be offering financial awards such as bursaries or scholarships to its students. Do you consent to your information being shared with your university or college specifically for bursary administration purposes?"
This means that the SLC is asking for your permission to share your details (and your parents' financial details) with your university. If you want to receive any kind of bursary from your university, you must allow the SLC to do this.
ART IDs and ALIAS IDs
What is the difference between an ART ID and an ALIAS ID?
Your ART ID is your own personal reference number, and you will need it to log into the Student Finance website. The ALIAS ID is the one that your parents will need to use (if you are a dependent student) so that they can submit their own financial details in order to support your application.
Students applying for Universities in different parts of the UK
I am applying for a University in a different part of the UK, do I have to apply through their Finance website?
No, you apply through the service which is provided for the part of the UK you are a student in (for example, applying for a Scottish University & based in England? Apply for the ENGLISH service). The amount of student loan/grant you are entitled to will not change. You may be eligible for a bursary from the Student Finance company serving where your University is based. This bursary would be for students who have come from a different part of the UK to study, other criteria may vary.
Am I eligible for any support whilst being so far away from home?
You may be eligible for a bursary from the Student Finance service where your University is based. This bursary would be for students who have come from a different part of the UK to study, other criteria may vary. Contact the Student Finance service where your University is based to see if you can get support.
In the future if you decide to become a permenant English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish student, your loan account may be transferred to the service which serves where you're now permenantly based. This is a decision made by the Student Finance company serving where you're studying.
What do I need to do once I've completed my form?
Once you've completed and submitted your online form, you should come to a page entitled "Evidence Summary", or something equivalent. On this page, you will be shown the address of your LA (Local Authority); you will need to post all of your evidence to them, at that address.
Verifying your Identity
To verify your own identity, you will need to send them either your passport or your birth certificate or your adoption certificate - but if you send a birth/adoption certificate you will need to fill in a separate form called an Identity Declaration Form, which you can download from the applications website under "Forms and Guides". This form will need to be signed by a person of standing who has known you for at least two years; a teacher would be the most common person to ask, but a doctor, vicar or lawyer (amongst other professions) would do just as well - but they must be a UK national, and they must have access to their passport as they will need to write their passport number on the form. You then need to send your birth/adoption certificate and declaration form (or your passport, if that's what you're sending) to the address you've been provided with. Don't be confused by the statement on the website that they need to be "original documents": you do not need to fish out the first birth certificate you ever had - they just mean that you cannot send photocopies. It also does not need to be your extended birth certificate - the shortened version will do just fine. Given that your documents contain personal information and could be used for fraudulent purposes if they fell into the wrong hands, you should probably send them by Recorded Post. You can expect your documents to be sent back to you within a few weeks (mine took just under three weeks). Alternatively, you can drop them in at the local office (i.e. where you would send the form by post) and you may even get your documents back immediately.
Verifying Household Income
If you've applied for a means-tested loan, your parents will need to provide the SLC with evidence of their earnings. This can either be in the form of a P60; a month 12/week 53 payslip showing "total paid to date" for earnings in the most recent tax year; a completed "Confirmation of Income" form, which can be downloaded from the Student Finance website; or a letter from an employer, confirming earnings. If you're applying online, your parents should register on the SLC website by clicking "Support a student", and using your ALIAS ID to verify themselves.
You must verify both your own identity and your parents' income (if applicable) before the SLC will process your application.
What happens if I miss the deadlines?
If you miss the deadlines, you are not guaranteed payment before the start of your course and you may find yourself struggling to make ends meet until your loan eventually comes through. You can still submit your application up to nine months after the start of your course - however, the last thing you want to be worrying about when you're at university is your financial situation, so do yourself a favour and apply as early as possible (or, at the very least, before the deadlines).
Which financial year should my parents be using when they verify their income?
The most recent one. This is the reason that the means-tested funding deadline is later than the non-means-tested funding one, as most people will not know their precise earnings for the last financial year until they get their P60 or their final payslip of the period, which may not arrive until May.
What if either of my parents is self-employed?
Self-employed parents will need to fill in a form (the "GSA1"), which can be downloaded from the Student Finance website. Their financial year may not be the same as the regular April-to-April tax year, so they must use their most recent completed financial year.
What happens if I'm not estranged from my parents, but they still won't give me any money?
Unfortunately, you cannot claim financial independence on this basis. Student Finance Direct's official stance on this is as follows:
"You will not be able to claim independent status just because you do not get on with your parents or because you do not live with them. You will also not be able to claim independent status simply because your parents do not want to give details of their income, or refuse to provide financial support to you".
I don't live with my parents. Am I still a dependent student?
In short: yes. Unless you have been financially self-sufficient for three years, you are over 25, you are married or you have care of children, then moving out of home will not make a difference to your application. There is only one way to become an independent student without fulfilling one or more of the above criteria, and that is if you are permanently estranged from your parents. If this is the case, you will need to prove your permanent estrangement via one of the following:
- A letter from a social worker
- A letter from an appropriate member of school/college staff who is familiar with the breakdown of your relationship with your parents
- A letter from a doctor, if you visited a doctor regarding the breakdown of your relationship
- A letter from your local Job Centre Plus, confirming that you received Income Support benefits below the age of 18, due to your family circumstances
- A letter from another professional person who is not a member of your family, and knows your circumstances (you should contact your LA to make certain, if the person you wish to use does not belong to one of the professions mentioned above)
You will need to send such evidence, along with a letter explaining the circumstances which led to your estrangement, to your LA. They will normally have expected your estrangement to have subsisted for at least 12 months, but this may not apply in exceptional cases.
Do I need to make my Firm and Insurance choices before I start applying for Student Finance?
Absolutely not! Provided that you submitted your UCAS form before the deadline of 15th January, the last date that universities can reply to you is 9th May. This is before the deadline for means-tested funding applications; but after the deadline for non-means-tested funding applications - so it is important to apply as early as possible, even if you have not made your decisions. If you are still undecided, you may simply put down the university you are most likely to attend, and if your decision changes you must inform your LA. You should apply as early as possible regardless of whether you are applying for means-tested or non-means-tested funding.
How do I send my documents? When will I get them back?
You will be provided with your LA's address once you have submitted your application. You are not obliged to send a covering letter, and you may get away with just sending your passport or birth certificate/declaration form; but it is obviously wiser to send a covering letter, just to be on the safe side, stating your name, address and the documents you have enclosed. You do not need to include an SAE: the LA will simply send the documents back to you when they have finished with them. It is most likely that you will get them back within a few weeks. However, please be aware that there is no guarantee of a prompt return, and they may take much longer than this, so it is unwise to send your passport if you are going away in the near future.
If your question still hasn't been answered, please browse through our Money and Finance forum, or feel free to create a new thread and get advice from other members of the forum.
Article originally created by Pitseleh 04:53, 2 April 2008 (BST)