How much will it cost my child to go to university and what funding support is available?
The costs of going to university can be divided into two parts. Firstly, the cost of the tuition fees to do the degree course and secondly the living costs and course related costs needed to study and live.
With regards to the tuition fees - these vary depending on the course your child chooses to study and the university / college they choose to attend. Tuition fees can be anything up to a maximum of £9250 per year. This fee covers all of the costs associated with teaching your child in their chosen degree subject, attending the university and using all of the study facilities such as the library resources or laboratories.
It normally covers everything associated with teaching the course except for any books and study materials or any field trips that may be offered to complement the course.
It is important to note that there are no upfront costs payable for tuition fees because every student is eligible for the tuition fee loan paid by the government as part of their funding support that will fully cover the cost of the tuition fees for each year of the course.
Maintenance loan and living costs
The maintenance loan is intended to help cover some of the the cost of living at a university - eg the accommodation, bills, transport, food, books, and socialising!
Unlike the tuition fee loan where everyone gets the same, the maintenance loan that a student can get to live on varies considerably. Everyone is entitled to some basic maintenance loan [which is not based on income]. However, your son/ daughter maybe eligible for a larger loan and this will be discretionary depending on the household income of the parent that they live with.
The amount they get each term for the duration of the course will also depend on the length of the course, individual situation eg whether the young person is in care or whether they are choosing to study at home, live away from home or study in London.
What do they mean by household income?
Quite a lot of assumptions are made by students and parents about what the government mean by 'household income'. It is worth looking at the definition of this term as many people get caught out by assuming a number of things:
- It IS calculated on Gross income, NOT NET income
- Non-resident parents income is NOT included
- If you live with a partner their income IS included
It is best to get informed and find out what you need to be aware of and how it may apply to you by visiting Student Finance England.
The Student Finance Calculator
Once you have a good idea of the household income, you can then put this information into the Student Finance Calculator to see how much money your son/ daughter can get a year for maintenance loan. The amount they get will also be based on if they decide to stay at home and study, move away from home or study in London.
It is worth finding out how much your son/daughter can get for maintenance loan before they decide on a specific university, as the costs of accommodation can vary considerably. In some instances the amount provided for maintenance loan may not cover the accommodation costs of much university accommodation. The amount of loan provided is not based on how much it costs to live at university. It is worth checking out the accommodation pages of potential universities and also to look at the range of the accommodation options. For example - Catered accommodation will be more expensive than self-catering.
Sources of Finance.
Martin Moneysavingexpert produces a useful guide to Student loans for parents and young people to help explain how it works, what your child is entitled to and what they will repay.
Many parents/carers do contribute towards the costs of university, for example, driving their son/daughter to university, or paying for food and phone bills etc. However, this is not a government requirement.
Depending on where your child chooses to go there is likely to be a gap between the maintenance loan and the actual living costs. As a result, many students work part time up to 15 or 20 hours per week and/or in the holidays, unless they have savings, other income, or parents are able to contribute towards their living cost support.
The amount of work a student can undertake whilst studying can vary. Courses with long hours and work experience such as medicine will mean it will not be possible to do work alongside.
Taking into consideration all of the above points, it is important for your child to 'shop around' when it comes to selecting a university and the accommodation to ensure that they have enough money whilst living away from home.
Here is a useful list of universities by living costs.
Financial support which does not have to be paid back:
- Bursaries scholarships and awards -Many universities will offer additional funding to certain target groups. This may include for example, students from a lower income background, care leavers or disabled students. Some universities may offer a reduction in tuition fees or possibly a free year on some courses and some universities may offer a bursary which is a non-repayable grant. Each university will decide what support they’ll offer so encourage your child to check to see what their chosen universities are offering and whether they are eligible.
Parents Learning Allowance, Childcare Grant, Adult Dependents Grant & Disabled Students Allowances -these are sources of money for students who are also parents and/or students who have an adult with a very low income who is financially dependent on them and/or disabled students. Find out more from gov.uk
Find out more about student finance and loans from gov.uk
Which? University - Advice for parents
Which? University - Parents: five student bills you should know about
For more information about the cost of repaying the governments loans, see the question - How will my child pay back a government loan for higher education?