University fees have hit the headlines in recent years, after the government gave the nod for the full amount to be charged.
The expectation was that very few universities would seek to apply the maximum level of fees, so what has happened has been quite a shock to many people.
Because of the rise in cost of tuition fees and the resulting increase in the debts that a student is likely to have to graduate with, many critics have claimed that once again, a university education is becoming a domain for those from wealthier families.
Students from less affluent backgrounds or those unwilling to leave with such a heavy debt burden are seeking alternative ways to gain a comprehensive higher education, without such a negative legacy.
One of the options is to plump for a part-time course, rather than entering into full-time study. This provides the possibility for individuals to apply for a tuition fee loan, up to a maximum of either £6,750 or £4,500 if your course is based at either a private university or college.
This loan does not have to start being repaid until your earnings reach £21,000, just like full time students, therefore giving you some breathing space to establish a career and earnings, once you graduate.
Tuition fee loans
There are certain criteria which must be fulfilled in order to qualify for the tuition fee loan. Firstly, your course must be equal to at least 25% of a full time course and this must be your first foray into higher education. However, if you did not complete the qualification last time, you may still be eligible to apply for the tuition fee loan.
What is particularly useful is that the tuition fee loan can also be used to pay for distance learning, so if you prefer to complete an Open University course to fit in around existing commitments, this could help fund it for you. There is also no upper age limit, so students of all ages can apply!
However, part time students cannot apply for other types of benefit such as maintenance loans or assistance with living costs. If they are on a low income, they may be able to get other benefits such as assistance from the National Scholarship Programme.
But despite these measures, there are indications of a shift in the thinking of UK students. Up until the recent hike in tuition fees, only a very small number have even considered going overseas to attend a foreign university. In 2011, just 22,000 individuals did so, compared to around two million that entered higher education in the UK according to figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
If you want to seriously consider going to Europe to take advantage of the more generous education system, the chances are that you will be able to find a course being conducted in English, as there are a surprising number available. But in order to make the most of university life and enjoy all the things you would have back in the UK, you will really need to learn the language, in order to fully integrate.
If you opt to go overseas to study, you will lose your entitlement to benefits such as tuition fee loans back in the UK. However, with many countries offering courses at no cost and others, such as Sweden, charging just £1,500, there will probably be far less of an issue. The other helpful factor to bear in mind is that UK students attending a course in an EU country are entitled to receive exactly the same financial assistance that natives of the country receive.
The sharp increase in tuition fees may have deterred you from seeking a higher education, but there are many other options which should be explored before you discount studying completely. Attending a part-time course could be the perfect compromise or if your circumstances permit, consider living abroad for a while. Not only will you be able to access cheap, high quality education, but you will also have the opportunity to experience a whole new culture!
Be careful with your finances
When you are a student, it can sometimes feel like you’re given free cash like overdrafts and credit cards without fully understanding the repercussions or seriousness of the situation if you can’t afford to repay what you owe.
It’s one thing having a student loan that you have to repay when you’re earning enough money, but having lots of unsecured debts is quite simply another – and this is when financial situations can get very worrying.
Paying minimum repayments won’t really help your situation, so try and be savvy with your finances and knowing exactly what bills have to be paid each month from your income.
Once you have finished university, if you find that you are struggling to repay unsecured debts such as credit cards, overdrafts or store cards – even if you are in full-time employment – you may want to find out if you could resolve your debt problems through debt consolidation from a specialist debt management company, such as Baines and Ernst.
Being financially aware during your student years will put you in good stead to manage your finances in the future and hopefully avoid graduating with debts that you could really do without.