The student maintenance loan is intended to cover your day to day livings costs, but many students are finding that this money is simply not enough to cover their expenses.
The maintenance loan is a means tested loan, which means that if your parents earn more than £58,222 you can only get the minimum loan of £3,410 per year and you don’t have to be doing a degree in Maths to realise that is not going to cover all your living expenses! If they earn more than £68,977, you do not get anything.
Even the maximum loan of £12,010 (household income below £25,000) could be a struggle if you are living away from home in one of the more expensive cities in the UK. Given that the average cost of student accommodation is estimated to be £126 per week, (remember that’s average across the UK and will be a lot more than that in major cities) that is £4,914 of your loan gone on a place to live. Add to that food, books, travel, and other daily expenses and most students, even with a full maintenance loan will be struggling.
The fact that amount of maintenance loan is based on parental income is due to the assumption that parents will support their child financially through their studies, but the amount given is not based on how much the parents do provide. For many parents this additional expenditure is just not possible and the student is left to make up the shortfall between the loan and the actual cost of living at university.
So if this sounds like you, what are your options?
Apart from the more obvious solution of getting a part time job (which isn’t always easy) there are various other places you can turn to if you need some additional income:
1. Student money advisors
Each university has a Student Money Advice service. They will be able to tell you if you are eligible for any additional funding. Most have what is known as a hardship fund, to help students out when they are struggling financially and have exhausted all other possible avenues. Talk to a student money advisor and see how they can help.
2. Scholarships, grants and bursaries
There is literally millions of pounds worth of funding available in the form of scholarships, grants and bursaries, but you have to look for it. You need to understand where to find this funding and how you might be eligible. It also takes time to make applications, but it could be worth the time and effort if you are granted free money towards your education that does not have to be paid back.
Even if your parents are unable to support you directly, if you sign up for Funds4Uni you can raise donations towards your university expenses when you, your family and friends shop online. They could be supporting you via their everyday shopping and it doesn’t cost them anything extra.
4. Discounts, offers and deals
Get thrifty! There is always a deal or discount to be had but you sometimes have to shop around. Bargain hunting can actually be quite fine, challenging and rewarding when you do it well and you will be surprised how much you can actually save. Before you buy anything always look around for a discount code or special offer.
5. Use your overdraft cleverly
All Student bank accounts offer a free overdraft facility, some up to £3,000. This means you can borrow up to the amount of your overdraft without incurring any fees. If you know you have some money coming your way – maybe from a job or birthday money or your next loan instalment – borrow from your overdraft until the money arrives. Or you can even borrow on your overdraft until you graduate and get a job. You usually get to keep your student account for around six months after you graduate before you would be charged interest on the overdraft.
If you are worried about money, don’t struggle in silence. Talk to someone. Money worries can take a big toll on your mental health and when you are trying to study for a degree, you do not need the additional stress of worrying about money.