When I was applying to university, I had a massive leaver arch file of solely finance information and I basically had Student Finance NI on speed dial – at one point the advisor knew my voice and we were on first name terms! I had no idea what I was doing. It was a difficult process because the information resources simply weren’t adequate and I had to do most of the research and leg work myself. Deciding to go to university could mean leaving a job for some and it is terrifying to not know what your money situation will look like for the future. Personally, I felt like I was walking into it blind and spent many sleepless nights worrying. BUT being a student and a parent is possible and I hope this one-stop-shop of information and support services will smooth the journey. Two years later, I’m STILL coming across unknown funds/grants that are available to student parents but I can guarantee that by the time you’re going into final year you will be filling out that finance form with your eyes closed.
From Student Finance:
If you have a child, you are automatically considered an ‘independent student’. This means that your parents’ income won’t affect the loans and grants that you get, no matter how old you are or whether you are living with them.
- Tuition Loan – This is a loan to pay your tuition fees and is paid straight to the university. Whatever your income, it will cover the full cost of your university’s fees. You don’t pay back the loan until you have graduated and are earning more than £21,000 per year.
- Maintenance Loan – Up to £4840. This is a loan to help cover your living costs. The amount depends on where you live when you study and is paid straight to you. You don’t have to pay the loan back until you have graduated and are earning over £21,000 per year.
- Maintenance Grant – Up to £3475. This is a grant to help cover your living costs. If you are on a low household income then you will receive it instead of the maintenance loan as this does not have to be repaid.
- Special Support Grant – Up to £3475. This is based on your eligibility for income support or other means-tested benefits such as Housing Benefit. This grant is for specific groups of students to help with living costs and does not have to be repaid. You will probably be able to get the grant if:
- you are lone parent, or your partner is also a student
- you have a disability and qualify for the disability premium or severe disability premium
- you are deaf and qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowances
- you have been incapable of work for a continuous period of at least 28 weeks
- you had to leave a course temporarily because you were ill or had to care for someone, and you are now waiting to go back to it
- you are aged 60 or older.
B. You can get either the Maintenance Grant or the Special Support Grant,not both. If you get the Special Support Grant then you will receive the Maintenance Loan. This is decided by Student Finance and they will make sure that you receive the maximum amount of money possible, depending on your situation.
- Parents’ Learning Allowance – Up to £1538 to support students with children. This money does not have to be repaid.
- Childcare Grant – To help with childcare costs if you have a dependent child aged under 15 at the beginning of the academic year (or under 17 if they have special educational needs) and they are in registered or approved childcare. Depending on your household income, you can apply for 85% of your actual childcare costs during term times and holidays. You can get up to £148.75 a week for one child or up to £255 a week for more than one child. This money does not have to be repaid.
- Adult Dependants’ Grant – Up to £2695 to help you support adults who are financially dependent on you. This money does not have to be repaid.
B. This grant is considered as income when applying for certain benefits from HM Revenue & Customs.
From the Government:
Most students don’t qualify for benefits, but if you’re a single parent or your partner is also a student, you may be able to claim;
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance
From the University/College:
Grants and bursaries vary throughout universities but most have extra support for students experiencing financial difficulties. For example, Queens University Belfast have the ‘Student Support Fund’ which provides discretionary financial help for students who are experiencing financial difficulties whilst studying and comprises two funds, the Department for the Economy (DfE) Student Support Fund and the University’s Hardship Fund.