How much should I give my child at University?

University is expensive and the most recent National Student Money Survey showed that 74% of students turn to their parents when they need extra money. But the fact is that for most students, the loans they get from the government do not cover the costs and parents are expected to make up the shortfall, so it is not just one off shortfalls the parents are bridging, but throughout the year.

So how much should you be giving your child while at University? Anything, nothing or somewhere in between?

Loans are based on household income.
The amount of maintenance loan your child receives has been calculated based on your household income. This means that the government have calculated the shortfall as the amount they believe you, as the parent should be making up. However where this falls down is

a. They don’t explicitly tell you this
b. They don’t take in to consideration outgoings, so how can they judge how much you can afford?
c. The cost of university life differs greatly around the country and in some university towns, where rent and cost of living is lower, the additional amount needed will be less than in London or more expensive places like Brighton.

What are the costs involved?
The biggest cost will be accommodation and the cost of this varies from location to location as well as by accommodation type. For some students the maintenance loan will cover this cost, but many find that it doesn’t and leaves them with nothing to live on.
Other things they will need to factor in to their weekly budget are

  • Laundry – most on campus laundries can cost around £5 a week. If you provide them with a clothes horse which they can use in their room this could save money on tumble drying.
  • Books – textbooks are very expensive and they are a cost that most students don’t’ always factor in to their budgets. Although it is not essential to rush out and buy all the books on the list there will inevitably be some that they will need their own copy.
  • Course materials – this obviously varies tremendously depending on the course they are studying, but for sciences there will almost certainly be some special equipment they will be required to buy, in particular the cost of course materials for creative arts should also be factored including the cost of final projects, which can very quickly add up and there is no extra loan provided for this.
  • Printing – although a lot of work can now be submitted electronically, there is still some requirement to print course work and this has to be paid for. Students are usually given a printing account which they can top up and use to print their work when they need to. Printing costs are usually around 5p/sheet, which can soon add up.
  • Food – if they are self-catering, plus anything they might buy for lunch on campus
  • Entertainment – socialising is an essential part of University life and there will inevitably be some cost involved, although it is usually not hard to find cheap entertainment on campus.
  • Travel – to and from campus if they are not on campus and to and from home if you want them to come home.
  • Toiletries and cleaning products

So back to the original question – how much should you give your child?
As you can see, there is no one figure that answers this question. You will need to sit down and work out what their likely outgoings are and what they will receive from the loan company and it will be different for everyone.

However, as a guideline, a recent survey conducted by Which? showed that on average parents are supplementing their child’s income by £360/month to support them while at university.

Other ways to make up the difference.

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Scholarships, grants and bursaries
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Student Jobs
Discuss with your son/daughter if they should be looking for a part time job. 76% of students do rely on part time jobs for extra income.

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