Quick guide to student finance if you’re from England
Are you an English student struggling to understand student finance? You can get money towards your tuition fees – now capped at £9,250 a year for UK and EU students - and for your living costs.
Tuition fees and the cost of living are key issues facing students. In England, tuition fees are capped at £9,250 a year for UK and EU students, with around 76% of all institutions charging the full amount in 2015/2016.
Don’t worry though – you can get loans to help pay towards your costs. Plus, you only start repaying the loan once you’ve graduated and you’re earning above a certain threshold (see more about this, below).
If you’re not from England, check our guides to see how student finance works if you're from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Watch: Student Finance England introduction video
Get started by watching this 2 minute video sum-up from Student Finance England:
So, there are two types of expenses for students: tuition fees and living costs.
As a guide, the recommended deadline to apply for student finance and receive it by the start of term (for 2018 entry) is 31 May 2018. You can apply after this date, but it's not guaranteed that you'll receive it in time for September. You can apply for student finance up to nine months after the beginning of your course.
So, how much will my tuition fees be?
Students in England will pay a maximum of £9,250 per year in tuition fees. The cap on how much universities can charge has been raised from £9,250 for those offering a certain high standard of teaching. For all other universities, the cap remains at £9,000. Read more about these recent changes to maximum fees.
This is the case no matter where English students study, whether in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (and is the same for students from these countries who choose to study in England).
You don’t need to find the money to pay your fees upfront. You can apply for a Tuition Fee Loan to cover these, and you’ll only begin repaying this once you’ve graduated and earning over a certain amount.
While it might seem like a lot of money now, don’t just look at the price-tag when choosing courses – find the course that’s right for you! Because of the way you’ll repay your loan, a course with lower tuition fees doesn’t always work out cheaper. How much you repay per month will depend on how much you’re earning. So push repayments to the back of your mind, focus on your studies and think about paying back your loan later.
How do I pay for university?
Tuition fee loan
This part of the loan is designed to cover your fee costs. You can borrow up to £9,250 a year (or however much your fees are).
This part is designed to cover the cost of accommodation and living costs. Like your tuition loan, you’ll only start repaying this once you're earning more than a certain amount per year.
How much you’ll receive will depend on your household income – the less this is, the more loan you're entitled to. If your annual household income is £25,000 or less, you can receive the maximum amount of £8,700 (if you’re studying in London, this increases to £11,354).
How much you’re eligible for decreases as your annual household income increases. The maintenance loan replaces previous grants which were available. You can learn more about these on the Ucas site.
So from this point, students can apply for a tuition fee loan and a maintenance fee loan (both repayable) only. You’ll apply for both student loans in one go, via the Student Finance England website.
On an NHS-funded course? Your support will be different.
Grants, bursaries and scholarships (i.e. free cash!)
There are also a number of extra funding options which you don’t have to repay if you’re studying under certain circumstances. Bursaries and scholarships can be offered by your university based on your academic ability, so ask about these.
Remember that the non-repayable grants no longer exist; these have been replaced with maintenance loans which do need to be paid back.
Try the GOV.UK student finance calculator to see what extra student funding you're eligible for.
You can receive a minimum of £57.90 per week through a scheme called Income Support. You have to meet certain criteria, which you can find out about on the GOV.UK website.
Do you have children or dependant adults?
If you’re a full-time higher education student and you have children or adults who depend on you for care and finance support, there are a number of (non-repayable) grants available:
- Childcare Grant: to help with childcare costs for full-time students, these are worth up to £155.24 per week if you have one child or £266.15 per week if you have two or more.
- Parents’ Learning Allowance: worth up to £1,573 a year, if you have children you can apply for this to help with costs tied to your education and course such as books and travel. This is dependent on household income.
- Adult Dependants’ Grant: if you have an adult who depends on you financially, you can apply for this grant worth up to £2,757.
- Child Tax Credit: if you’re responsible for a child either under 16 or under 20 and in approved education or training, you can receive financial support for each qualifying child. Calculate how much in Child Tax Credits you can receive based on your circumstances.
Are you disabled?
Disabled Students’ Allowances are available if you have a disability that meets the Equality Act 2010’s definition of such, such as a long-term health or mental health condition or learning difficulty. What support you receive will depend on your disability.
Studying a particular subject?
If you’re studying a medical, dentistry or healthcare course, you can apply for NHS bursaries as well as for help with travel costs to placements as part of your course.
There are also bursaries for social work students and extra help for teacher training students.
There are also Hardship Funds available. If you’re struggling to support yourself financially while studying, you can apply to your university or college for assistance. How much you can receive will vary from one institution to the next as this is not government-funded. You’ll need to speak to the student services department at your university or college for more information.
Our guide to bursaries, fee waivers, grants and scholarships has more information, including the answer to the all-important question: how much cash could you get?
How is my student loan paid back?
The below information on repayments applies to those who fall under 'Plan 2' which is for English and Welsh who started studying after September 1st 2012.
Plan 1 is for English and Welsh students who started before 1 September 2012, and all Scottish and Northern Irish students.
Read more about Plan 1 and 2 on the GOV.UK website.
You could come out of a three-year university course with up to £50,025 (plus interest) to pay back in student loans, although most will have a lower level of debt.
You'll only start paying back your student loan once you are earning over the threshold. This is currently £21,000 per year; however the Government has announced (October 2017) plans to raise the repayment threshold to £25,000 for all students who graduated after 2012; this will come into effect from April 2018.
Once you are earning this or more, you'll pay back 9% of your income that's above the threshold; so it doesn't matter how much you borrowed, but rather how much you're earning.
To calculate exactly how much you'll pay back monthly:
- take your annual salary (before tax)
- minus the repayment threshold from that (as per above, this is changing from £21,000 to £25,000 in April 2018)
- calculate 9% of what's left
- divide by 12 to see how much you'll pay back roughly per month
- after 30 years, any outstanding debt you still owe will be written off, even if you didn’t pay anything during some of that time (because you weren’t working or you were earning below the repayment threshold).
How much interest will you pay?
This will depend on the current Retail Price Index (RPI) in the country, plus your circumstances. While studying and until the April after you leave your course, this would be RPI plus 3%. After this, the interest varies depending on your income, ranging from RPI if you're earning £21,000 or less, to RPI + 3% if your income is £41,000 or more. Keep in mind that the interest rate changes every September, so keep your eyes on the news for the new one.
Remember, you won’t pay anything until you earn the repayment threshold or more – but the interest will be ticking over in the background.
Do student loan debts expire?
A major review into university funding in 2010 estimated that around 60% of graduates won’t have paid their full loan back after 30 years. So, either you’ll be lucky enough to be in the top group of graduate earners for the full term, or you’ll never repay it all.
More info: student loan repayment interest rates