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Formal Financial Support Available to Students

With fees set to dramatically rise, thinking about possible financial support at university has never been more important. There are many options for financial support, especially if your household income is less than £25,000, and the government is also introducing new bursary and scholarship schemes to help offset the effect of the fees rise. Make sure you know what you’re eligible for so you don’t miss out on financial support which has been earmarked for you.

Government Grants

A grant can be applied for at the same time as you apply for a student loan (studentfinance.direct.gov.uk). The process is more complicated though, as you will need your application to be supported by your parent or guardian and the paperwork involved can seem overwhelming. It’s important to know firstly whether you’re entitled to a grant, and, if so, for how much.  The two grants provided by the government fall into two types: Maintenance Grant for living costs and a Special Support Grant. The Maintenance Grant works on a sliding scale according to your household income. If your annual income is under £25,000, you are applicable for a maximum maintenance grant of £3,250 a year. This scale goes right up to an annual household income of £42,600: if your household earns under this you are eligible to receive £50 a year. However, if you receive a Maintenance Grant, your Maintenance Loan will be reduced. This is not the case for the Special Support Grant. This is available to students who are receiving housing benefits or income support. Students who are single parents, have a partner who is also a student or who have disabilities are most likely to be qualify for this grant.  For more information and to apply, follow this link:

Website: www.gov.uk

Trust and Charity Grants

Local charities often have funds set up to help local residents through their university degrees. It may take a bit of research to find out who can help you, but if you’re already on the maximum maintenance grant, it’s likely that there’s some money out there which you can access. We spoke to Joe, currently in his third year at Edinburgh, but originally from Oxfordshire. ‘I heard about my local charity fund from a mate who’s a couple of years older than me. There isn’t much information on the internet, so I just wrote a letter to the charity address outlining what I’d spend the extra money on and why I need it. Basically, it’s just there for people who live in my local area and is adjustable according to your student grant. I’m on a full maintenance grant so I get the maximum charity grant, I think this year it was £440.’

Have a look on this website to see if you are eligible for any charity or trust grants:

Website: www.family-action.org.uk

Bursaries

These are usually arranged directly through your university and, again, are usually reserved for those on the full maintenance grant (household income under £25,000). Because of a recent OFFA access agreement, which aims to encourage students from lower income families to go to university, by 2015 English universities should be spending about £300 million a year on scholarships and bursaries.  In other words, bursaries make up a huge portion of a university’s spending each year, so, if you’re eligible; make sure your university knows!

Hardship Funds

Again, these are organised by individual universities, so how the application and payment process works will vary across the country. The Hardship Fund is there for students who are struggling to pay for costs such as books, field trips or other educational equipment. It is not supposed to be there to subsidise fees or lack of parental support.  For more information, contact your university directly

Scholarships

Individual scholarships are available through universities; however, these are few and far between and highly competitive. A new government programme ‘The National Scholarship Programme’ aims to provide financial support to students who would otherwise be discouraged by rising fees. The scholarships are organised by individual universities, but draw on a government budget. Although they will vary across the country, a benefits package of around £3,000 is thought to be expected by 2014. This will be paid differently at different universities, for example, it could take the form of a fee waiver, free foundation year, reduced accommodation or even a cash sum (capped at £1,000).

Contact your university for more details.

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