Thinking about uni but worried about money?

Thinking about uni but worried about money?

Students going to uni in 2012 and applying for courses in 2013 probably wish they had been born sooner. A birthday two years earlier would have meant paying £3000 per year in university tuition fees rather than £8393, while being 7 or 8 years older would have reduced that to £1000.

No, it doesn’t seem fair and some potential students have obviously been put off. Applications for courses in 2012 are significantly down with 15,000 fewer students opting for uni compared to 2011.

But giving up on the idea of a degree and the potentially higher earnings of a graduate could be a choice that you live to regret. If you are unsure or worried by the financial burden, the first thing to do is to get clued up about what the costs actually are. Then look at what your funding options are and how you can plan to live within your budget.

Tuition fees

Although the publicity often mentions £9000 per year, the actual annual fee charged by most unis is just over £600 less than that. That’ll buy a lot of beans on toast.

The new government loan scheme means that this is all available to you as part of a tuition fee loan. You only have to start paying it back once you’ve graduated and you’re earning over £21K per year and the term is 25 years, so the payments won’t be crippling.

Maintenance and living expenses

These will vary a bit, being higher in London than elsewhere in the UK but you need to budget about £3000 per term for your accommodation, food, clothes, books and social life. You can put this together from various sources, some of which depend how much your parents earn and how much they are willing to sub you:

  • Your maintenance loan could be as much as £7,675 each year but how much of that you end up with depends on your parents’ earnings. You pay this back in the same way as your tuition fee loan.
  • Getting a maintenance grantis only possible if your parents, or the parent you live with, earn less than £43,600 each year. Again, its means tested, and the maximum you can get is £3,250 per year.
  • Applying for a national scholarshipis an option if your household earnings are less than £25,000 and you are the first generation within the family to apply to go to university. It’s a great deal as it pays for your first year tuition in full.

Living on a budget

Part of the fun and the challenge of being a student is managing on very little money but going to uni in 2012/13 will mean all the money you spend goes on your loan debt. That’s a scary thought.

The more you spend now, the more you will have to pay back later, when you are establishing a career, settling down with someone special and possibly anticipating the patter of tiny feet. You are going to need every penny then as you do now, so it makes sense to budget, even if it’s a bit boring at times.

  • Learn to eat cheap: cook with friends, take advantage of subsidised college food, and learn how to make a nutritious and filling meal out of carrots and lentils. It all helps.
  • Don’t dress to kill: you don’t have to have the latest designer gear, facials, manicures and have the lifestyle of a film star. Maybe one day... but not as a student. Scour vintage shops and charity shops for bargains that you can customise. Be creative, not skint.
  • Carve your money up: work out what your budget for the term is, what your rent is and any costs for books etc, then divide the rest by the number of weeks you are at uni. Try to make your weekly budget last. That way, you won’t be on a starvation diet the last two weeks of term.
  • Get a job: most students than ever are combining their experience at uni with some work experience and extra cash. There will be a lot of competition for casual jobs, but it’s worth trying. The holidays are long too, so there may be an option of short-term work at home.
  • Use the following student calculator which makes budgeting easy - Free Online Student Calculator