Newest Review: ... to apply also qualify for a one off £150 saving on a course of your choice. The idea is that it gives people the incentive to better them... more
In the Debts of Despair?
Member Name: Squiggles
Date: 16/07/01, updated on 16/07/01 (102 review reads)
Advantages: Many money saving opportunities to be found
Disadvantages: Very expensive education
I spent six years working for the Buckinghamshire Local Education Authority, finally leaving in 1990 just as student loans were being introduced. Up until then, the LEA was paying university and college tuition fees as standard, and in addition, a maintenance grant to students dependent on parental income. What that means, is that we looked at the level of income of the students’ parents and determined a parental contribution, with the balance of grant being paid by the LEA itself, up to the maximum amount determined by the Government for that academic year. It averaged at a full maintenance grant of approximately £2000 plus the payment of tuition fees.
Things have changed. The Government, in their wisdom (?), have deemed that students should be more responsible for the cost of their own education. Student loans were introduced, with the proviso that students would not have to repay their loans until they had been fully employed for a year or more. This is resulting in students having crippling debts before they even begin working, sometimes running into several thousand pounds for students on longer medical or vetinary courses.
One of the favourite parts of my job was as student advisor/counsellor. Many students would pop into my office for advice, and nine times out of ten; the subject of discussion would be finance. My students were struggling to manage on the amounts provided by the LEA, and this was BEFORE the introduction of student loans. In those days, the basic maintenance grant covered 30 full weeks of term time attendance during each academic year. Many students studying at polytechnics and some universities for HND and some degree courses were not aware that as their courses ran for longer than the standard 30 weeks, they were eligible to claim extra for the additional attendance.
How times change. Students struggled before the introduction of loans, with the high costs of tuition, accommodation, expensive textbooks
, food, heating costs etc and now things seem to be going from bad to worse. Some students are finding the financial strain totally overwhelming, and are being forced to leave their courses before completion. Others are working non-stop to subsidise their loans, at the detriment of their studies.
So, how can students get the most from their limited finances? And still find time to devote to their studies without having to work every hour God sends?
Tip one – shop around for the best student bank account. Most banks and financial institutions offer good deals for students, but some are particularly better than others. Some will give financial incentives to open a student account with them; others offer ‘gifts’ that can be valuable to some in certain circumstances. Some offer students a high overdraft facility, but this is probably best avoided, you’re going to find yourself in enough debt as it is without having to pay a lot of money back to the bank in high interest charges. Plan your budget carefully, and don’t be swayed by a bank falling over itself to offer you an overdraft running into thousands.
Tip two – use your NUS card whenever possible. The card gives you discounts at lots of stores and restaurants around the country and can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Tip three – make sure you apply for your student tuition fees payment (means tested) as early as possible to your LEA. Some students have been kept waiting for their applications to be approved for as long as six months at times. Call your own LEA for advice, but be aware that they are generally very busy, most handling 8000 applications plus each year, with barely three months to assess them all. Don’t wait until your place at university has been confirmed following your exam results; apply as soon as you have been awarded a provisional place. The same applies if you want a student loan, fill out forms prom
ptly and be prepared to call the Student Loans company to chase things up if you hear nothing.
Tip Four – make full use of the student advisors at your College/University, they know all the pitfalls and can give excellent advice. Some LEAs also have staff dedicated to providing help and support for students on just about any student related subject, job applications and finances in particular. They can also advise you on the LEA’s own discretionary polices and point you in the right direction for further information - each LEA will have different schemes depending on the budgets allocated to them.
Tip Five – Make a budget and stick to it. Not as easy as it first seems but if you can manage to stick to it, you should be able to keep a tight grip on your debts without them spiralling out of control. List all your incomings, and list everything you will need to spend money on, accommodation, books, food, laundry, travel costs and so on. Set yourself a weekly amount and try not to overspend on any one area.
Tip Six – Look for second hand text books, which can save you a fortune, a lot of ex-students will advertise these either at the college or in the library or in the University press. Or use the books in your college library as much as possible as these cost nothing!
Tip Seven – check out your local Charity shops for clothes (they’re not all Granny’s cast offs!), many have some superb bargains on coats, jackets etc which otherwise could really eat into your budget.
Top Eight – shop wisely for your groceries, most towns have budget supermarkets that can save you money. Takeaways are all well and good, but most aren’t cheap and you’ll save money if you’re prepared to cook for yourself using honest to good cheap ingredients! Also, visit your local supermarket late in the day and you may just find a range of discounted foods that are approaching their sell by
date, but still perfectly edible.
Tip nine – find yourself a part time job that will give you a little extra income, without taking you away from your studies for too long. Your Student Union will have details of jobs available on campus that generally pay little, but aren’t too demanding.
Tip ten – use public transport as much as possible, it’s cheaper than running a car! Or walk or cycle wherever possible, it will keep you fit too!
Tip eleven – make sure your budget covers having a good time and being able to relax from the stresses of study with your new Uni friends, but find cheap places to drink or have fun. Or simply have a gang of you get together with a few cheap tinnies in your digs, some good music, and party on dudes!
And lastly, write good and detailed opinions on Ciao, DooYoo etc. in your spare time and earn some extra money! Both sites have good sections covering all aspects of student life, and you’ll be able to record your experiences and opinions and make a few extra pennies whilst doing it. You might also want to check the web for other money-making opportunities, but be careful, there are lots of dodgy looking marketing schemes out there, and avoid any that ask for cash from you in the first instance. DooYoo actually list a whole range of student sites and opinions that will prove to be very helpful!