Do you want to study at university but haven’t got the money for it? Don’t worry. If you are based in the UK, your best way out of this dilemma is to apply for a student loan from the government funded Students Loan Company.
Over the past few years, there have been some important changes to student funding. This article provides you with answers to the most frequently asked questions about the student finance loan and tells you how you can apply for one.
What is Student Finance?
Student Finance is the official government funding that you can apply for to get financial help to pay for your tuition fees or living costs. The Students Loans Company (SLC) - the organisation that offers this type of funding - was founded in 1990/91 to provide additional help, and in its first year gave loans to 180,200 students.
Today the number of students applying for loans has increased massively because many people see it as essential to make the most of the student life and pay academic expenses. The 2017 statistics show the amount of money provided to each student can be as high as £89,300. That means a lot of money for a lot of students.
Who Can Apply for Funding?
You have to meet two requirements to be eligible for a student loan:
- Personal Eligibility: concerns the student’s residency status
- Course/Institution Eligibility: need to be studying for an undergraduate degree at a UK degree-awarding institution or other verified higher education institution
Finance is open to both UK and EU nationals who live in the UK. There is no upper age limit for tuition loans, but when applying for a maintenance loan to cover living costs you will need to be a UK student aged under the age of 60 to be eligible.
How Does it Work?
The process is quite simple. Once you make your application, the money from the SLC is provided and regulated by the government and then sent to the official student finance organisation. There are two types of student loans offered by the SLC and these are:
1. The Tuition Fee Loan
This covers your course fees and it’s paid directly to your university/college. It is a loan of up to £9,250 to cover tuition fees each year. Currently, this is the maximum universities can charge for tuition fees, and it’s a £250 increase on 2016/17. The student loan can cover your academic expenses throughout the duration of your undergraduate degree.
The amount of funding varies from institution and location in the UK. Save the Student provides good information:
The cost of tuition throughout the UK:
In England, it’s £9,250 wherever you study.
In Scotland, Scottish and EU students get free tuition at Scottish universities (this does not apply to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
In Wales, there are free grants for Welsh/EU students which effectively cap tuition costs at £4,046 and the Welsh Government pays the rest.
In Northern Ireland, you can be charged up to £3,925 (unless you study elsewhere in the UK).
EU students can get the same deal as locals, including free or discounted tuition.
2. The Maintenance Loan
You can use this loan for whatever you like e.g. rent, bills, food and savings. As of the next academic year, you can apply for a maximum of £8,430 depending on household income. The maintenance loan can’t cover living expenses for most students so you could need extra income unless you learn to live on less.
Apart from these two, the government’s website explains that you may also be able to apply for the following:
- Disabled student’s allowances
- Childcare Grant and Parents’ Learning Allowance – if you have children
- Adult Dependents’ Grant – if you have adults that depend on you financially
One of the best things about these loans is that you don’t have to pay anything back until you graduate and start earning £21,000 per year. By the end of your studies, you will be saddled with a student debt of around £48,000 just like everybody else who chooses this option, but after 30 years any outstanding student debt will be written off.
Note that university bursaries and scholarships are different to student loan finance and you can be eligible for these if you get high marks. In contrast to the student loan, you don’t have to repay these at all.
When is The Best Time to Apply?
The best time to apply for a student loan is as soon as possible. Applying early means that you have extra time to sort out any troubles before your course starts.
Each country’s Student Finance body has different application deadlines. If you are applying for it, make sure you regularly check the following sites for updates:
For England: Student Finance England
For Scotland: Student Awards Agency Scotland
For Wales: Student Finance Wales
For Northern Ireland: Student Finance Northern Ireland
Applying for a Student Loan
Here’s a step by step guide to help you out:
Step 1: Go Online or Do it by Post
The quickest and easiest way to apply for a student loan is to go online but you can also do it by post. For the majority, the second option is easier because it allows them to send all of the supporting documents. If you are applying online you need to have a working email address. When you set up a student finance account and register with the Student Finance you will get a reference number, which you need to keep hold of.
You don’t have to worry if you have not confirmed your place at university yet. You can apply for a student loan even when you are waiting for an answer. What you need to do is make your preferred choice and change your details online later, if you need to. The same applies to people who are planning to apply for a place through Clearing.
Step 2: Complete Your Application
Upon application, you will need to provide the following information:
- National Insurance Number
- Bank Details
When applying for funding based on household income, you and your sponsor (normally, parent of partner) must provide the correct financial and personal information. Your funding can be removed if you provide incorrect details.
Step 3: Provide Evidence
Once you submit your application, Students Finance might ask you to send them more evidence to support your application. The sooner you send them the information they need, the quicker your application will be assessed, and you will get your money. If you have already secured a place at university you may be required to provide course details as well, so make sure you have everything ready once you get to this stage.
Step 4: Sign the Declaration Form
Finally, you will need to print out the declaration form, sign it and return it. After this, you will get a letter that tells you how much money you can get within the next 6 weeks. Once you have everything settled and managed to register for your course, the Student’s loan company will make the payment to the institution you have enrolled with.
Keep in mind that it takes up to six weeks to process your application, so it’s important to apply as soon as possible. If your application is submitted late, the process will be further delayed.
Step 5: Double Check
You might think that everything’s ready, but just like you would do for any other task, you need to double check everything before you submit your application to avoid delays in the payment. This is why it’s important to do your research and ask for everything you think you will need or you are eligible for up front.
Once you finish with your application, don’t get comfortable. Keep in mind that you will need to re-apply for it each year and this continues throughout the duration of your studies. If you miss the deadline, it’s not the end of the world; you can apply for student finance up to 9 months after the start of the academic year.
Studying at a university can be pricey, but there is cash available for you out there. The problem is that it’s often very well hidden and you will have to work your way around it, find out what’s available for you in terms of student funding and decide what works for you best. The rules about whether you are eligible for it or not - as well as the student fees, keep changing and it’s always useful to check what’s going on.
Have you applied for a loan? Need any help? Let us know in the comments section below…