Tuition fees: your questions answered

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'Big fee' year

The academic year that starts in autumn 2012 is the first ‘big fee’ year for UK students. Instead of the £3375 per year paid by students starting out last year, you will now need to pay up to £9000 per year, so £3000 per term.

Here we have provided brief answers and signposts to the most common questions you have.

Q: How much will I have to pay?

It depends on where you are going to study. Many universities are charging the full whack but some have a range of tuition fees and some fees on course in some universities are lower. You can download the excel file produced by OFFA for English universities (not Welsh). Look at the tabs along the bottom and click the one for fee levels by institution and look up your uni.

Q: Where will I get the money from?

Article _clearingtuition 02The good news is you don’t have to save up the money to pay as you go, or get your parent’s to stump up the massive amounts of cash required. Tuition fees can all be paid through a tuition fee loan, which is available to all and is not means tested. After you graduate, you start paying your loan back when you earn over £21,000 (that will rise with inflation over the next few years) and then you pay back 9% of your earnings. All debts not paid back after 30 years will be written off.

Q: Does tuition fee loans cover my living expenses?

Sadly, no. The £9000 per year you will owe back will be added to another loan you will need to take out to pay for your living expenses – rent, food, entertainment, clothes etc. These loans are means tested, with the maximum of £3250 per term available to students with a household income of less than £25,000. If you parent/s earn up to £42,000 you are still eligible for something but more than that, your loan capacity will be reduced and your parents are expected to pay your way to a greater extent.

Q: How long will it take me to pay my loans back?

Article _clearingtuition 03If you have the full tuition fee loan and a full maintenance loan, you could leave uni after three years owing up to £72,000. If you only ever get a job paying £25,000 per year, that will mean you will pay back £2250 per year for 32 years. So the last two years would be cancelled. Just how this will work in practice is not clear. For example, how will women who take time out to have children pay back their loans, and how will people’s ability to get mortgages on top of their existing loan be affected?

Q: Can I pay back my loan early?

Tricky one this; although this is technically possible, the government doesn’t want to encourage it as they will get less interest. At the moment, it’s not been decided but there may be a penalty to pay for early repayments in excess of a threshold amount each year. So, you may be able to pay £1000 per year extra for no charge, but you will have a penalty fee for anything over that (or whatever threshold is eventually decided). This is similar to the way some mortgage lenders operate, although penalty payments usually only apply within a fixed term, not the entire period of the loan.