University: Student Loan Horror Stories

I’m kind of a little dubious about writing this post, as I have a sneaky suspicion that this year will be the first I have a real issue with Student Finance. More on that later, because as yet I’ve had pretty much perfect experiences with the UK loan company. Sure, the site is horrendous (though better than the first year I used it), yes the people on the phone lines aren’t the easiest to deal with, but the payment has turned up on time and that’s all I’m really worried about!

 photo Money2_zpss6sspetc.jpgHowever I have been lucky. I know friends who have had payments delayed for weeks, often through no fault of their own. This year SFE have ‘lost’ the financial records of many applicants’ parents – and I’m still concerned that this will delay my own payments. I know of people who have been so confused by the system, so baffled by the information requested that they have unknowingly delayed or even cancelled the payments.

My Voucher Codes have found that nearly 40% of students had experienced problems when applying for or receiving their student loan. Shockingly, over 20% of applicants had their loan payments delayed, with a further 5% experience up to six months of disruption. You can read some of their findings here – it’s an interesting article!

I genuinely have no clue what I would do in this situation. I have savings in which I could live off, but if I as left to pay even a term of my £9k tuition I would struggle. Luckily many universities are understanding as the money ‘will come eventually’ so I guess I just have to keep my fingers crossed – both that I don’t have problem, and that if I do my university are helpful…This year my parents details have been ‘lost’ several times, so as yet I’m still unsure as to whether my application has actually gone through. It says so online, we shall see!

 photo Money3_zpsmwjm7h0k.jpgYou can read more about their research here, but I’ve also been doing some of my own. I asked around on social media whether anyone had had problems, immediately I was inundated with responses. I’ve kept it all anonymous of course, but here’s some of the problems personal friends have experienced;

  • Using siblings’ wages to calculate entitled amount.
  • Changing the amount entitled between April and July this year for no apparently reason.
  • SFE said the university hadn’t confirmed my attendance and to talk to them. Uni said they had and to contact student finance. SFE said there was nothing they could do until the uni confirmed. Repeat.
  • They cut mine this year because (1) they ‘overpaid’ previously and (2) I’m a third year.
  • Term starts in less than two weeks and they STILL haven’t told me what I’m getting…or if I’m even getting anything.
  • The online form was blocked for my application, so I had to fill out a paper copy. And pay for the stamp.

So yes, lots of problems! I don’t have detailed information, I can’t comment on them, but it is clear that perhaps the system isn’t coping as well as it should. Fingers crossed all of these issues are resolved in time for term starting…

How has your experience with Student Finance been? Would any future students appreciate a guide about how to apply for loans?

University: Student Finance & You

In all honestly, one of the worst bits about being a student for me is the lack of money (I’ve so enjoyed my placement year for this reason!). I also found applying for student finance one of THE most stressful things in the whole process. They simplified and improved the website now and it is a lot easier, but yep. It wasn’t fun. When Ryan offered to send over these tips for dealing with SFE I couldn’t help but share;

 photo iStock_000044027192_Large_zps4pwrvkup.jpgAs the end of A-Level exams approaches along with the start of a long summer break, many of you will be thinking towards higher education come September.Whether you’re going to college or university, you’ll likely have been going through the student finance process with your parents in order to get your affairs in order for when you fly the nest.But before you start panicking about how you’re going to afford to live on your own, and before you nag your parents to get on the phone to their financial advisor, it’s worth understanding what you’re entitled to for both your studies and your living costs.

Tuition Fees

When you get accepted onto a university or college course you will be entitled to a tuition fee loan to cover the costs of the course. You won’t see this money, as it will be transferred directly to your institution from the student loan company. The currents rates are as follows:

  • Up to £9,000 for full-time students
  • Up to £6,000 for full-time students at a private university or college
  • Up to £6,750 for part-time students
  • Up to £4,500 for part-time students at a private university or college

When it comes to repaying your student loan, the first thing to remember is that you won’t start paying anything back until the April following the end of your course, and only once you start earning over £21,000 per year. Repayments are then made at 9% of your earnings. You loan will also accrue interest at the rate of inflation plus 3%.

Many people wonder whether it is worth paying off a student loan early, but as it’s one of the best loan rates you’re ever likely to receive it is often not worth doing so; after 30 years of payments, if there is an outstanding balance it will be wiped.

Your parents’ income will have absolutely no impact on your tuition fees, unlike…

Maintenance Loans

If you are moving away from home for University then obviously you are going to need money to live. A maintenance loan will allow you to pay for your rent, bills, food, travel and books (as well as ‘socialising’, of course…), though how much your parents earn will have an impact on the amount you can receive. The current maintenance loan values are:

  • Up to £4,565 if living at home
  • Up to £5,740 if living away from home, outside of London
  • Up to £8,009 if living away from home, in London
  • Up to £6,820 if you spend a year of a UK course studying abroad

Households with an income of over £62,000 per year are expected to help with living costs through a ‘subsidised contribution’ of £2,009, which means maintenance loans (outside London) are then capped at £3,731 per year.
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Free Money

Yes, that’s right: University students can actually receive free money! Don’t be fooled into thinking your maintenance loan is free money, you will end up paying it back alongside your tuition fees. There are, however a number of bursaries (set by each individual University, and not always eligible to all) as well as maintenance grants that don’t need to be repaid. Whether you’re eligible for a maintenance grant, and exactly how much you receive will again depend on your parents’ household income:

  • £3,387 per year if from a household with an income of £25,000 or less
  • £2,441 per year if from a household with an income of £30,000
  • £1,494 per year if from a household with an income of £35,000
  • £547 per year if from a household with an income of £40,000
  • £50 per year if from a household with an income of £42,620
  • No grant if from a household with an income of over £42,620

The government’s official student loan calculator will allow you to work out just how much maintenance loan and grant you should receive.

Budgeting

It sounds boring, but to ensure you don’t blow through your maintenance loan in Freshers Week and are living on a diet of plain rice right through until Christmas, you’re going to have to set yourself a budget. Take a day this Summer to work out exactly how much you’ll be getting, how much your rent will be (student halls are usually inclusive of all bills and paid up-front each term), and how much you’ll have left over for books, food and fun.

Most students have to live on a budget of less than £500 per month, and that includes your rent and bills, so budgeting and finding out all of the special student discounts you can receive is essential in order to stop the calls to Mum and Dad to get an extra tenner every couple of weeks.

*Sponsored Post. Ryan Smith is part of the content development team at Local Financial Advice, connecting people with independent financial advisors in their local area to help them achieve their financial goals.

I hope this has helped new students understand a bit more about the student finance allocation – it’s definitely made it a lot clearer in my eyes!