Parent Blog: Stella – Student Finance Applications

Monday 23rd July 2018

Stella has two daughters who both have degrees, one of which progressed via A levels onto University and the second completed an Open University degree after originally completing BTEC and A level qualifications.

Every parent’s nightmare is what to do about money when their child is considering going to University.  It’s the question high up on most Parent and carers agendas when they visit a University Open Day.  My experience as a Parent Ambassador at SHU [Sheffield Hallam University] is that this doesn’t change.  There are many myths surrounding the ‘thorny’ subject of student finance which can be a source of anxiety for parents and students alike.  For your reassurance, and to be equipped to support your child, it is important to have accurate facts to hand. There is a range of sources available to help you make your own personal decisions. These include advice from staff, students and teachers as well as invaluable on-line support (see below for useful websites). There is no prescription but a wealth of information to help you come up with a personalised plan.

It is worth remembering that student finance is provided on behalf of the Government by Student Finance England.  [There are separate arrangements for the other countries which make up the UK].  There are 2 parts to student finance both of which need to be applied for.  If you haven’t discussed this with your child, for whatever reason, I really would advise this would be the best starting point.  It can be a ‘tricky’ subject for some but it’s best to have a full, fair and frank discussion about money.  Establishing some ground rules helps avoid future ‘misunderstandings’.

Student finance is made up of two strands: –

  1. Tuition fees loan – the student applies for the loan via the website and completes the online application themselves.  An account needs to be set up (Which you can do here). The loan is theirs and theirs alone.  To be eligible the applicant must be applying as a first time undergraduate for an eligible course and be a UK or EU national normally resident in the UK.  The maximum amount available to borrow is £9250 each year of study. The Government website (see above for log in page), gives this information. The responsibility for paying back the loan is theirs and not the parents.  The loan is paid directly to the chosen institution of study.  This is a loan and as such attracts interest at a rate which is subject to change.  It has to be repaid.  Payments are taken at source once the recipients salary reaches £25,000 pa, [as of 2017].
  2. Maintenance loan – students can also apply for a loan to help them with day to day living costs, e.g. accommodation, food, bills, travel, study expenses etc. This is now a loan NOT a grant and also has to be repaid under the same criteria as the tuition fee loan.  Everyone is eligible to apply but unlike the latter the maintenance loan is means tested.  This the household income where the student currently resides is taken into account.  As a parent you will be asked to supply financial information confidentially and set up your own login details to communicate this information confidentially so don’t be put off!

The maximum loan if you chose to live away from home is currently £8,700 if the household income is less than £25,000.  Above £25,000 and parent/carers are expected to help out.  This is what can put the pressure on parents/carers but there are ways round this – see websites below.  The money is paid into the applicant’s bank account each term.  Parents can help by ensuring their offspring have a good grounding in budgeting to help with using the money wisely.  It is important to apply before the deadline; often set towards the end of May of the year of entry in the September, e.g. 25th May for a Sept. 18 start.  Any delay may mean the funds are not available to pay the Tuition Fees and/or the Maintenance Loan in the Autumn Term.  It is best to avoid such a stressful scenario.

So, do your research to ensure you can support your son/daughter and include everything relevant, encourage early applications, double check everything, don’t panic if the deadline gets missed [as applications can be received up to 9 months into the course useful if financial plans go awry] and don’t forget a reapplication is needed each academic year!

It is worth remembering that if a student drops out or ends their studies early they are liable to repay any loans so help them to make sure they have made the best choice of course and institution.  Good luck!

Useful websites:

Parents Student Finance