f you’re about to send your child to university you’ll know know where their going after A Level results were announced, but you might be still unsure about how much they’ll need to get by. Tuition fees might be covered by government loans, but will the living allowance loan really cover your son or daughter’s accommodation, food, partying and books?
How much your child will get in government and university loans and grants will depend on your financial circumstances and how generous their university is. The student loan company offers a maximum maintenance loan of £5500 per year for those outside of London, but according to the NUS the average received by a student on average income is £14,370 including what they pay in tuition. You’ll be able to establish the exact amount by looking at the grants offered by your child’s university place and adding it onto the figure the student loan company is offering.
Typically this will be thousands short of what is needed to cover expenses however. Inflation has put up the costs of most goods in the last few years, but it has affected accommodation and food – the major expenses for a student – more than any other category. Even if your child opts for the cheapest student hall or some dingy private digs, they’ll often not even be able to cover this expense with their loan. For instance student rooms in London are often £6000 or more a year, and even opting for non-student digs in a neighbourhood with a bad reputation will mean £4000 a year goes on housing alone.
You might claim to have survived on bake beans on toast at university, but the chances are that even cooking basic meals like this will cost your son and daughter £40 a week. That’s at least another £2000 a year, and for most will be higher than this. And there are other expenses too: books and equipment are often required purchases for courses, travel costs too and from university can really add up and the cost of travelling home every few months all adds up.
The NUS estimates that the living costs over a year, including tuition costs, are over £22,000 outside of London, and other a thousand pounds more inside. About £9000 of this will be tuition fees, but your child will still need an income of about £13,000 if they are to avoid getting into debt.
You should ensure your child knows this before you leave them in their university halls. This will encourage them to be frugal, and they should also be encouraged to get a job – either part time during term time, or full time during the holidays. If they’re able to secure work then you may be able to get away without giving them anything extra, but times are tough and many employers are avoiding recruiting students when locals who can be relied on to be available year round are applying for the same jobs.
The student loan company typically pays their loans and grants about a week into the university term, so parents are encourage to give their children enough to cover the first week of term’s expenses. If not, they may have to use services like Readies.com. Halls are generally flexible enough to only demand payment after the loan comes in, but private landlords aren’t always as understanding.
Sending a child to university is important for giving them the best start at life, and the best chance of having a fulfilling and successful career – but it’s also expensive. Don’t underestimate the costs, be prepared to help out but encourage your son or daughter to become financially mature in both their spending and their attitude towards work.