The university application process is full of big decisions, deadlines and results days and so student finance is often an afterthought. Admittedly anything finance isn’t the most exciting, but the process is paramount to starting your course on time, so listen up!
The term ‘student finance’ is used when talking about money loaned by the government to students to cover the cost of their tuition fees and to go towards their living costs. Within student finance you have two main types of loans, the tuition fee loan and the maintenance loan.
The tuition fee loan is optional and offered to all home UK students (subject to broad criteria*) to cover the cost of their teaching for the entirety of their degree. This is not means tested or in other words not dependant on household income, therefore all UK students who apply for an undergraduate full-time course and who apply for a tuition fee loan will be given the full amount to cover their tuition fees. Tuition fees are capped at £9,250 by the government until (and including) academic year 2024-25.
If you chose to do a 4 year sandwich course including a placement year or study year abroad the tuition fees for that year are heavily reduced. The tuition fee is paid directly to the university from the Student Loans Company (SLC) so you will never have to worry about handling this money, the most important thing to remember is that you need to submit an application for your tuition fees for every year of study, this is the same for your maintenance loan should you choose to take one out.
Secondly you have the maintenance loan, which is money given to you by the government to help you live while studying, this is paid directly into your student bank account and can be spent on a range of costs from accommodation, food, utilities and course costs like textbooks and lab coats. This loan is also optional, but a vast majority of students will choose to apply for it. The other big difference with this loan is that it is means tested, so the amount you receive will differ based on your household income. Typically, this is the income of your parents, stepparents or guardians, if you split your time between two households you will need to provide the details of the house in which you spend the majority of your time. For further information please refer to the SLC website.
The Government has confirmed that loans and grants to support undergraduate and postgraduate students with living and other costs will be increased by 2.8% for the 2023/24 academic year. The minimum amount you can receive in maintenance, if you are living away from home but outside London is £4,651 per academic year and the maximum you can receive is £9,978 per academic year. These are two figures at opposite ends of the scale and your household income will determine where you sit on this scale. These total amounts are given to students split across 3 instalments during the year typically at the beginning of each semester in September, January, and April. To see how much you are eligible for visit the GOV.uk website.
Applications are open now and the deadline for on time applications is 19th May. 2023, the process can take up to 6 weeks so please start the process early to avoid delays in processing.
If you decide to apply it is one application for both loans. If you chose not to take out a maintenance loan then you will only be required to show proof of your identity and nationality. If you do choose to take out a maintenance loan then you will be required to prove your household income, and you and your parents may be asked for national insurance numbers and P60s to prove their income. The whole application process is online, and you will be required to have login details. If you miss the deadline in May there is no guarantee the SLC can have your loan processed in time for you starting your course in September. You do not need to 100% know where you are planning to study at the time you make an application but you do have to apply before the deadline to guarantee having your finance in place before you start your course. You will be asked to state your firm and insurance decisions on the application, but these can always be changed at a later stage.
If you chose to take out a tuition fee loan or a maintenance loan you must be aware that both of these loans will be combined to create your ‘Student Loan’ which will need to be repaid from the April after you graduate but only if you are earning over the government set threshold, which for 2023-4 students will be £25,000. You will repay 9% of any earnings over £25,000 until you clear your debt or until 40 years have passed, whichever comes first. The interest rate will be based on the Retail Price Index. These payments are taken from your earnings directly every month like a tax.
If during the process you are in any doubt use the resources on the GOV.uk website, the SLC webpages and universities can help answer any queries too. The process may be lengthy and uninteresting, but it doesn't have to be hard!
*Check eligibility here: https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/who-qualifies?step-by-step-nav=18045f76-ac04-41b7-b147-5687d8fbb64a