Student finance explained: 11 things you should definitely know
Student. Finance. It’s a term that can strike fear into even the most prepared 6th-formers, conjuring up images of endless forms and five-figure sums of debt.
It’s undoubtedly a lifesaver, but let’s be honest – who among us really understands every detail? Just recently, reports have come out about how little we do, with the Russell Group and Martin Lewis (of MoneySavingExpert fame) campaigning for the government and the Student Loans Company to redefine how they talk about student finance, to make it clearer to those using the service (yep, like you. And us, not so long ago).
So we thought we’d try and do our bit to help with that, with the most important points that we weren’t really aware of (we just thought of all the pizzas we’d buy…).
YES, it can be a bit complicated, and YES there’s a crazy amount of info to absorb. NO, we don’t think we can do it full justice in a short article - but what we ARE hoping is that this will give you a quick overview of what you need to know. It might remind you of what you know already, or it might be a prompt to go and find out a little more.
So after this, it’s on you (unless we get there first with more info, but we’re making no promises today!).
Student finance is the financial support system (yes, money!) offered by the Student Loans Company (a not-for-profit company set up by the government) to students in the UK.
It’s mostly for those doing their first degree, and UK residents only (there are a few exceptions, but we’ll get to those).
It’s available for most degrees at most institutions - check on the Student Loans Company website for exceptions, which can include totally private places or really specialist courses that aren’t given the same status as an undergraduate degree.
Alright then – here it is:
1,It’s not a debt in the traditional sense.
You don’t start paying back anything you’ve borrowed until you’re earning £25,700 a year*. Then, how much you pay back is a percentage of your earnings above £25,700.
2,How much you pay back and when is strictly tied to what you earn.
This is so that you aren’t asked to make repayments that you can’t afford.
3,You shouldn’t rush to pay it all off.
The debt is written off after a certain period (usually 30 years after you graduate, if your course started on or after September 2012)
4,It’s not the only type of support available.
Scholarships, bursaries, and student accounts with interest-free overdrafts can all help out the average student (especially an interest-free overdraft). And of course Smart-Pig can help in a one-off emergency!
5,There are 2 main types of support — tuition fee loans, and maintenance loans.
You can apply for both.
6,What is the tuition fee loan?
This is money given straight to the place you’re studying at and will usually match the cost of your course each year (as long as the course and where you’re studying fit requirements). If you’re looking at different types of training, like vocational courses, there is also the Advanced Learner Loan, which works in a similar way to lend you the money to pay for a course.
7,What is a maintenance loan?
This is money provided on a regular basis, usually at the start of each term, to help you stay alive (you know, that kind-of-important stuff like a ROOF. And FOOD). This loan is means-tested, which means your household income (i.e. your family/guardian) is looked at, to see how much you’ll be given. People from lower-income backgrounds may be loaned more.
8,It’s slightly different for each devolved nation
(like the lucky Scots, who get free university education). So depending on your UK nationality, there could be some differences — select your nationality here to find out more.
9,There are several differences and exceptions.
Who doesn’t love red tape? Seriously though; PGCEs, postgraduate courses, part-time courses and some other specialist courses are treated a little differently and you might be loaned different amounts from someone doing a regular 3-year, full-time undergraduate course.
10,Interest gets added from the start of your loan (when you first get any money)
Don’t fixate on the big scary number. This won’t, on its own, count against you in the future if you apply for other kinds of credit (like mortgages and business loans), but you should always declare it as a monthly cost.
11,You DO need to continue repayments if you move abroad
Unless you aren’t earning enough to qualify.
12,Changing courses or institutions can affect how much you’re loaned
If you start a course and then drop out, you’ll still need to pay back anything you’ve been loaned (once you start earning above the threshold).
That’s it on our whistle-stop tour, we hope you’ve enjoyed the ride! If you’ve still got questions, take a look at The Student Room where you can select your course type for more specific info.
Better hop to it though; if you’re starting your course in September, applications for student finance close on 24th May for English students, 31st May if you’re from Northern Ireland, and 7th June for Welsh students.