For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.

Student Finance

The Big Fat Guide to Student Finance 2019

Student Finance got your head in a spin? Let us put you straight! We'll show you where the money is, how it works, how much you can get and how to get your hands on it.

Student finance guide

Are Student Loans really all that bad? Actually, what even is a Student Loan? How will it impact your studies and your future? Is it even worth going to university anymore?

The chat surrounding Student Finance has got a bit out of hand. Get to the facts and you'll find it's all quite straightforward, affordable and accessible!

And facts is what this guide is about. Yes, Save the Student has campaigned against tuition fees for years but we are even more passionate about debunking the myths that stop young people following their dreams of going to uni in the UK. 🙂

How to use this guide

You don't have to read everything, or try to guzzle it down in one chunk:

Read what you can now and bookmark the page to pick it up later, if you're short of time!

Student Finance small print varies around the UK. If you're outside of England, see our guides for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, EU countries and other international students. Not a full-time student? Use our guide to part-time Student Finance.

Student Finance in 30 seconds

student finance guide

Credit: ITV Studios

  1. Student Finance (funded by the government) allows students from any financial background to go to university
  2. The Student Finance package includes a loan for course fees, plus a means-tested Maintenance Loan or Grant to cover living costs
  3. UK universities can charge up to £9,250 a year in tuition fees, but you’ll pay nothing upfront if you’re eligible for Student Finance (most students are) 😀
  4. You could get extra cash if a health condition, childcare costs or clinical placements leave you out of pocket while studying, or financial support if you're struggling to get by
  5. You or your parents may be expected to chip in for maintenance support (i.e., living costs). You’ll need to plan for this!
  6. Student Finance has to be paid back, but don’t let that put you off! Student Loan repayments work more like a graduate tax, which is far easier to manage after uni
  7. You only make Student Loan repayments once you’ve left your course AND are earning enough. Repayments flex with your salary, and stop altogether if your income drops too low
  8. Controversially, the Student Loan charges up to 6.3% interest each year until you pay it all back
  9. But crucially, many loans may be written off anyway before they’re fully repaid. If you’re not a big earner after uni you may only pay back a fraction of what you borrow from Student Finance
  10. For the most part, Student Finance is reserved for UK students, but if you’re from the EU – or meet other eligibility criteria – you may get some support
  11. Almost all students can get a bite at funding beyond Student Finance, from bursaries and scholarships to charity and corporate cash.

Student Finance FAQs

What is the 'Student Loan'?

what is a student loan

Credit: CBS

Student Finance includes a mix of grants (which don’t have to repaid) and loans (which you do pay back). Your Student Loan is all the repayable funding you apply for – i.e., the Tuition Fees Loan and/or Maintenance Loan.

Bear in mind that you may have to repay some grants and extra funding as well if you leave your course early: always get advice before dropping out.

How much are tuition fees in the UK?

Most universities charge £9,250 a year for course fees. However, universities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland charge less (or nothing) to students who already live there or are from the EU. Unfortunately international students almost always face higher fees.

The good news is that most UK, EU and some other students can apply for Student Finance, scholarships or fee waivers, all of which make it easy to cover tuition costs.

How much Student Finance will you get?

The Tuition Fees Loan lets you borrow enough money to pay course fees in full, up to £9,250 a year (or up to £6,000 a year at private unis). How much you get for living costs depends on your household income and where you live while studying.

The maximum that most can apply for is £8,700 a year, though there’s a bit more on offer if you study in London or spend part of your course abroad. Many students will get less than the maximum, so it’s important to check for yourself!

Your funding package may also include support for physical or mental health conditions, or cash for parents and carers: payouts for these vary.

Who can get Student Finance?

There are almost as many rules about who can get Student Finance as there are Subway sandwich combos.

At its simplest, you should be eligible for tuition AND maintenance support if you’re studying an approved course at a registered uni, and haven’t previously started a degree or similar course.

You’ll also need to be a UK citizen (or have ‘settled’ status) and living here for at least 3 years before your course start date.

While EU students can apply for the Tuition Fees Loan, they won’t usually get help paying living costs. Rules and amounts also vary if you’re a part-time student, over 60, at a private uni, or claiming special circumstances such as refugee status. Contact Student Finance to flesh out the extra details for yourself.

What else do students have to pay for?

Tuition fees may hog the headlines, but for most students the key to surviving at university is planning for living costs.

These include accommodation, food, transport, textbooks, and anything else you need to stay alive and on top of your studies.

The average student spends £807/month at uni, though there are ways to pay less or find funding.

When should you apply for Student Finance?

when to apply for student finance

Credit: 20th Century Fox

You can start applying for Student Finance the spring before your course starts. You don’t need a confirmed place, so get in early to be paid promptly at the start of term. You can apply as late as 9 months after starting, but don’t wait if you need the money!

Either way, allow time to get your paperwork together, plus at least 4-6 weeks to hear a decision. It’s not as long-winded, but you’ll also need to reapply for funding each year of your course.

All the deadlines you need are right here.

What funding is available if you can’t get Student Finance?

Universities offer a mix of scholarships, bursaries, fee waivers and hardship (emergency) funds. Some charities, companies, councils and professional bodies also award grants and financial support: it’s possible to dig up hidden funding for everything from spiritual or ethical beliefs to what your parents do for a living.

If you can’t get – or don’t want – Student Finance, make sure your salary, savings, family support or other finance is enough to cover the cost of uni.

Will tuition fees go up or down?

Tuition fees have steadily gone up over the last few years, with some students landed with higher fees even after starting a course. Underhanded, yes – however, if you take the Tuition Fees Loan, price rises won’t hurt your future finances.

Monthly loan repayments after uni are determined by your salary, not by how much you borrow.

What’s the deal with student debt?

While Student Finance helps pay for university, it does usually mean graduating owing thousands. But because of the way repayments work, in reality many students will only pay back a small part of what they borrow.

Use your predicted graduate salary and monthly repayments to see if the loan is right for you, rather than fixating on what you’ll owe. In the meantime, you absolutely do need a plan to deal with everyday debt such as overdrafts, credit cards and other kinds of borrowing.

Can you afford university?

Only you can decide if university is affordable for you. There’s lots of funding out there, some of it ring-fenced to ensure poorer students aren’t left out.

That said, almost everyone finds it easier with extra income or family support, as many struggle to get by on Student Finance alone. However you play it, a money plan is a must!

It's likely your parents are going to have lots of questions about Student Finance too - which is why we created our parents' guide to university just for them.

How to contact Student Finance

contact student finance

To apply for Student Finance or ask how much you’ll get, contact the agency where you live (or where your uni is located if you're not from the UK):


Phone: 0300 100 0607

Twitter: @SF_England

Website: Student Finance England


Phone: 0300 100 0607

Twitter: @saastweet

Website: Student Awards Agency Scotland


Phone: 0300 200 4050

Twitter: @SF_Wales

Website: Student Finance Wales

Northern Ireland

Phone: 0300 100 0077

Website: Student Finance Northern Ireland

How much does university cost?

university cost

Don’t get dazzled by big numbers! Tuition fees and living expenses run into £1,000s, but most of it is covered by Student Finance and isn’t the same as how much you actually pay.

Tuition fees in the UK

Here's the maximum that public universities can charge in undergrad tuition fees, depending on where you live when you apply:

Students fromStudying in EnglandStudying in ScotlandStudying in WalesStudying in N Ireland
Northern Ireland£9,250£9,250£9,000£4,160
EU countries£9,250Free£9,000*£4,160

Remember that this is the most they can charge – individual courses may vary. Fees are also likely to be very different for overseas students, as there's no official maximum figure. Either way, check the university’s website or prospectus for details, or see the UCAS course catalogue.

Thinking about a year abroad? You might pay different fees while you're away. We've got the lowdown on that here.

What do tuition fees pay for?

Tuition fees pay for a lot more than just teaching. They also help cover buildings, services, staff, and hardship funds for struggling students.

While you don't get any say in how much universities charge, it's still worth checking they spend fees in the ways that most benefit you. That could be through more teaching time, a well-stocked library, cutting-edge facilities, career mentoring, or anything else that helps you get you a degree or a job after graduating.

Is it worth shopping around for cheaper fees?

As most universities charge the maximum for their country, most students won’t see much difference unless studying in Scotland or Northern Ireland is an option.

And, if you’re from Scotland, NI or Wales and want to study in England, remember that Student Finance will stretch to accommodate the higher course fees and living costs (don't worry – borrowing more won’t affect how much you repay).

It’s definitely in your interest to compare fees if you’re not eligible for Student Finance and/or are paying your own way – international students have the most to gain from this.

For most students, comparing local costs like rent, food and transport is the best way to see what’s affordable for you: here's how much students spend at each UK university.

Course costs

At up to £9,250 a pop, you'd think tuition fees would see you fully paid up. They don't. You'll have to confirm extra course costs for yourself with the uni, but generally you’re looking at things like books, stationery, lab kit or art materials, field trips, printing and photocopying.

Allow for these when making your budget to avoid nasty surprises later on!

How much does uni cost you per hour? Find out with our calculator!

Living costs

Living costs can be a huge pain in the pocket: we’re talking rented accommodation, bills, transport, socialising, laundry and food.

Some of these expenses can be covered by the Maintenance Loan or any bursaries and grants you're entitled to. Chances are, though, that you'll also need back-up from savings, your folks or a part-time job.

How to pay for university

tuition fee loan

Tuition Fee Loan

Apply to: Student Finance

Eligible full- and part-time students can borrow for the full cost of their course fees, up to £9,250/year (or up to £6,000 a year at private universities). This money isn't means-tested, so household income won't affect how much you get.

The maximum amounts apply everywhere in the UK. This means if you’re from Wales and opt to study in England, you'll get enough to cover the higher fees. However, you can’t borrow a bit extra on the side with this loan: it’s only for course fees and is paid directly to your university.

If you don’t take the fees loan you’ll need to make your own arrangements to pay tuition, either in full or in instalments.

In Scotland, note that even if you’re eligible for ‘free’ tuition you’ll still need to apply to Student Finance to ensure you don't get charged.

Living costs

Maintenance Loan

Apply to: Student Finance

The Maintenance Loan pays for day-to-day living expenses like rent, bills, beans and books. Unlike the fees loan, it's paid directly to your bank account once a term (monthly in Scotland) and you can spend it on anything you like – which is why you need to be clever about it.

The Maintenance Loan is partly means-tested. Everyone eligible can get some of it regardless of their financial situation, but to get the full allowance you’ll need to declare household income. For most students, that’s how much their parents earn.

These are the maximum amounts you can apply for this year in England. Don't forget this is what you could apply for, not what you'll definitely get!

Maximum Maintenance Loan 2019/20

Household IncomeLiving at homeAway from home (outside London)Away from home (London)

Note that the higher your household income, the less funding you can apply for: the government assumes your or your parents will plug the gap!

NB: The numbers are different if you come from or are studying in other parts of the UK, or if you started uni before 2016. You'll also get slightly less money in your final year, because you won't be a student over the summer. Gulp.

There's extra info about maintenance funds in our guides to Student Finance in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Maintenance Grant

Apply to: Student Finance

Grants are the golden ticket of Student Finance because – unlike loans – you don't have to repay them. How much you get depends on your household income and where you live while studying.

  • In Northern Ireland, you could get up to £3,475 a year.
  • In Wales you’ll get at least £1,000 a year, up to a max of £8,100 (more if you study in London).
  • In Scotland, the Young Students’ Bursary awards up to £1,875 a year.

New starters in England can’t apply for the Maintenance Grant anymore: you’re now expected to take out a larger Maintenance Loan instead. If you started your course before 2016 and already get a Maintenance Grant, don’t panic: your funding will continue as long as agreed.

Special Support Grant

Apply to: Student Finance

In Wales and Northern Ireland, some less well-off students may be able to swap the Maintenance Grant for a Special Support Grant (SSG). You could be eligible if you receive certain benefits, qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowance or are a single parent.

SSG pays up to £3,475 a year in Northern Ireland, and up to £5,161 a year in Wales. Just like the Maintenance Grant, it’s means-tested, and doesn’t have to be repaid. Unlike the regular grant, it won’t reduce the amount of Maintenance Loan you can apply for, and won’t affect any benefits you get either.

Making the most of maintenance funds

  • Maintenance funding is doled out in regular instalments, but you’ll need to make it last between payments. Rent or freshers’ week can hoover up an entire loan, so plan ahead!
  • You need to register on your course before funds are handed over. That means you’ll get to uni before your loan, so bring cash to keep you going in the meantime.
  • Including untaxed income – such as some savings interest / State benefits – could mean losing out on funding: our student tax tips explain how to work it.
  • You can ask to be reassessed for funding if your household income drops significantly – keep it in mind.

Bursaries and scholarships

Apply to: your university

Almost all universities offer a selection of bursaries and scholarships. These are cash gifts you usually don’t have to repay.

Bursaries typically go to students whose household income is below £25,000 a year, though some universities cut off at £40,000 a year. There may also be awards for students leaving care, refugees, and those who pay or care for others. Payouts vary from book tokens and one-off awards to annual payments of £1,000 or more.

Scholarships reward talents or achievements such as exam grades, music and sport. Some universities also offer incentives to study particular courses, or for students from specific countries. Scholarships can be cash awards or tuition fee waivers (if you’re given a choice, cash is the better deal!).

Your own money

Any cash you bring to the table will make uni life a lot easier. Start stuffing money into a savings account before you start your course, if you can: even a few quid here and there adds up.

If working while studying is an option a part-time job, freelancing, side hustle or student business mean more beans to live off.

The parental contribution

parental contribution student university

Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

Some Student Finance maintenance funding is means-tested: how much you get depends on your household income. If you’re financially dependent on your parents, that means their income affects your funding.

Crucially, the more your parents earn, the less Student Finance you’ll get, because the government expects them to contribute as well – this parental contribution calculator reveals by how much:

Parent calculator

In reality, many students feel guilty about asking, don’t ask at all, or are left short because their parents can’t help. It’s definitely awkward, but it’s a conversation you need to have with your folks sooner rather than later:

  • Can your parents afford to help you? Do they have any conditions about how you spend the money? Will you have to pay them back?
  • If they can't help financially, how else could they support you? Don't underestimate the power of leftovers!

Show them our parents' guide to university if they need more info to make a decision.

Borrowed cash

Apply via: student banking

Borrowing without a plan is like jumping out of a plane with a Prada handbag instead of a parachute: it won’t end well!

A ‘plan’ means thinking about why you’re borrowing, comparing options (credit card, loan, overdraft, saving up), checking the total cost, and planning for repayments.

An interest-free overdraft is one of the best picks for students. Used the right way, they let you borrow cash for free (unlike commercial loans). Use them poorly, however, and you lose the benefit. Start with our student overdrafts explainer, then pick the best student bank account for your needs.

Always check what extra funding is on offer before dipping into borrowed cash. Already got an overdraft, loan or credit card? Take 2 minutes to see where you stand with debt.

How to budget for uni

  1. Download our budgeting spreadsheet – it already includes the most common student expenses.
  2. List your monthly income: Maintenance Loan, grants, wages, tips, benefits, bursary, parental contribution and any other cash you’re expecting.
  3. Using your total income as a guide, estimate how much you’ll need or can afford to spend on each expense (here’s how much real students spend).
  4. Play around with the sums until everything fits: the aim is to never spend more than your monthly income. If you need to, find ways to earn more or spend less.
  5. Keep a daily record of your spending, and keep comparing it to your budget. A notebook will do, but a budget tracker makes it a doddle.

Extra sources of funding

Hardship funds

Credit: NoHoDamon - Flickr

Support for parents and carers

Apply to: Student Finance

If you’re responsible for looking after someone else while studying, you could be in line for bonus cash. The funds below cough up £1,000s each year, though your payout will depend on your household income. Once you get the cash, it’s non-repayable.

  • The Parents’ Learning Allowance awards cash to students with dependent children. In Scotland, it’s a Lone Parents’ Grant – i.e., for single, widowed or divorced parents.
  • As you might expect, the Childcare Grant helps pay for a childminder, nursery or other childcare fees. In Scotland, money is handed out directly by the university and is a limited pot – so you’ll need to apply early.
  • An Adult Dependants' Grant provides cash support if you’re financially responsible for another adult, for example, as a carer. Awards are means-tested, either by your household income or the person you look after.

While these funds are mostly for full-time UK students, who can claim (and how much) varies around the country. Cash is bundled in with Student Finance, so you’ll need a UK bank account to get paid.

Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

Apply to: Student Finance

You could get DSA if you have a disability that causes you extra costs while studying. ‘Disability’ includes mental health problems, unseen conditions (like epilepsy) and learning difficulties (such as dyslexia) as well as long-term physical conditions.

You'll need to provide evidence or be assessed, but then there’s cash to pay for specialist equipment, a non-medical helper, a general allowance and travel expenses.

How much DSA could you get?

Type of studentSpecialist equipment allowance (whole course)Non-medical helper allowance (per year)General allowance (per year)
England (full-time)Up to £5,529Up to £21,987Up to £1,847
England (part-time)Up to £5,529Up to £16,489Up to £1,385
Northern Ireland (full-time)Up to £5,266Up to £20,938Up to £1,759
Northern Ireland (part-time)Up to £5,266Up to £15,703Up to £1,319
Scotland (full-time)Up to £5,160Up to £20,520Up to £1,725
Scotland (part-time)Up to £5,160Pro rata*Pro rata*
WalesUp to £5,332Up to £21,181Up to £1,785

DSA isn’t means-tested and is non-repayable. Accepting other disability related grants or support can affect whether you get DSA, so talk it over with your uni or Student Finance office first.

Other funding

Apply to: various

Taking the time to search for less obvious funding is where patience pays off! Try these on for size:

  • There are bursaries and scholarships beyond those handed out by universities, along with specialist scholarships most students never hear about.
  • If you're studying for a healthcare related degree (including medicine), you could be eligible for an NHS Bursary. Check out the NHS' info on the funding here.
  • Travel grants are for grabs if you study part of your course abroad, or you’re a medical or dental student and have clinical placements in the UK. Contact Student Finance about these.
  • Universities usually oversee bursaries for care experienced students, but in Scotland, a bursary and accommodation grant is handled by Student Finance Scotland.
  • Crowdfunding – where you ask strangers to invest in you – is an option if you have a good story to tell.
  • The Turn2us grants checker lists charity funds you may be eligible for. Tip: toggle each of the search options in turn to see what else comes up.
  • If you’re taking time out from a job (and expect to go back after uni) talk to your employer about cash support or sponsorship.
  • Most students can’t usually get benefits but check for yourself if you have special circumstances or are really struggling. Try the StepChange benefits calculator.

A sponsored degree, where a company pays for your studies, is a sizeable commitment rather than a bit of extra cash. You may be expected to work for them during and after your studies, in exchange for wages plus (often generous) study-related expenses.

You might need to sift through several company websites – try their recruitment pages – to track down opportunities. Alternatives, ask your careers’ adviser or search online for ‘Degree Apprenticeships’.

Emergency money

Apply to: various

If you run out of cash after starting your course, ask your university or students’ union about hardship funds (emergency grants or loans for students).

Each uni sets its own criteria for who can apply and how much they’ll get. They may also want to see copies of your Student Finance letters and your budget before handing over any cash.

While banks aren't the first place to turn for a cuddle, learning the right way to use an overdraft could save your bacon in a crisis.

Student Loan repayments

paying back student debt

Credit: HBO

You only repay the Student Loan if you earn enough

Student Loan repayments kick-in the April after you’ve left your course. However, you only make payments when you earn MORE THAN:

  • £18,935 a year in Northern Ireland and Scotland, or if you started uni before 2012 (i.e., you have a Plan 1 loan)
  • £25,725 a year in England and Wales (i.e., you have a Plan 2 loan)

If you don't earn more than this, you won't make repayments. This includes if your salary drops later on or you become unemployed. If that happens, repayments stop until you’re back over the earnings threshold.

You’ll carry on making monthly repayments (as long as you earn above the income threshold) for around 30 years, until either you pay back the whole amount or the loan is cancelled.

You’ll probably see your salary increase several times during the lifetime of your loan. That’s a good thing! However, there’s a good chance you’ll be making the largest repayments by the time you want to buy a house or are supporting a family of your own – just something to be aware of.

If repayments kicked in sooner than they should, or before you’re earning enough, you're entitled to a Student Loan refund!

Repayments are taken from your wages

Repayments are automatically docked from your wages before you get paid – you don’t have to go hunting for the cash or remember to pay on time. The calculation will be shown on your payslip: just check the numbers and hang onto the paperwork in case you need to query anything.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll make repayments along with any income tax you owe by filling out a self-assessment tax return once a year.

How much will you pay back each month?

You don’t make repayments on your full salary. Instead, you pay 9% on anything you earn above the threshold. This is a crucial detail, as it means monthly repayments may be far more manageable than you fear.

How repayments are calculated

If the income threshold for your loan is £25,725 and you earn £26,725 during the year, you pay 9% on the extra £1,000, i.e., £90. You pay this in monthly instalments, so that £90 becomes 12 monthly repayments of £7.50.

The table below shows what your monthly repayments could look like. Because the money is usually taken before you get paid (i.e., weekly or monthly), the actual amount could vary during those months when you earn a bit more or a bit less.

Monthly Student Loan repayments in England and Wales

SalaryPlan 2 monthly repayment

Monthly Student Loan repayments in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Yearly salaryPlan 1 monthly repayments (6th April 2019 – 5th April 2020)

Remember these are just guide figures! There’s more info, including full UK figures, in our Student Loan repayments cheat sheet.

The Student Loan is written off after 30 years

Any Student Loan you haven’t paid back after 30ish years gets written off. Any remaining balance is erased, monthly repayments stop, and you can finally unclench your buttocks.

When exactly you hit loan wipeout depends on which part of the UK funds your studies, but it’s typically either when you turn 65, or once you’ve had the loan for 25 year or 30 years, whichever happens first.

The biggest consequence of loan cancellation is that – in combination with flexible repayments – many students won’t pay back the whole loan.

While this sounds fabulous, predicting whether you’ll wipe out or be stung for the full amount (plus interest) isn’t an exact science:

  1. For an idea when you might start repaying your Student Loan, check the average starting salary for your degree.
  2. To check your chances of repaying the whole amount, plug your expected starting salary into our Student Loan repayment calculator.

Student Loan small print

student loan details

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Remember: it doesn’t matter how much you borrow, or what happens to interest rates. The only thing that affects the size of your monthly repayments is how much you earn after uni.

The Student Loan charges interest

Just like any other loan, the Student Loan adds interest onto your balance. The interest rate is tied to how the economy performs and can go up or down. The figures are updated every September, but currently:

  • For students in Scotland and NI, interest is 1.75%.
  • In England and Wales, interest varies between 3.3%-6.3% depending on whether you’re still studying or how much you earn (if you’ve left uni). Interest defaults to 6.3% if you don’t keep your details up-to-date.

Added interest means you’ll end up owing more money than you originally borrowed and could take longer to repay. While that may sting a little, keep in mind that whether interest goes up or down makes no difference to your monthly repayments or whether you pay it all back.

‘Income’ includes more than salary

Your income after graduation decides how much you repay to your Student Loan each month.

You’re probably used to thinking of income as wages from a job, but it includes other sources of taxable income, including bar or restaurant tips and some State benefits. It’s worth keeping an eye on these, as they could nudge you over the salary threshold when you’re not expecting it, or bump up your payment amount during some months.

A Student Loan WON’T affect your credit rating

Your credit score is a really valuable number that determines whether you get the best deals on credit cards, loans, energy bills and even mobile phone contracts. Thankfully, owing money on a Student Loan won't affect your credit score.

However, because monthly repayments come out of your wages, it could have a small effect if you apply for a mortgage later on (as banks use take-home pay to see how much you can afford to borrow).

Repayments don’t stop if you leave the UK

facepalm kittenMoving abroad after uni – whether for a few months or for good – doesn’t mean you can forget about your Student Loan!

Living or working overseas may change your income threshold, so you’ll still need to stay in touch with the Student Finance office and keep up with repayments. Repaying your Student Loan from abroad explains what to do.

You need to stay in touch

Like a particularly nosy relative, your Student Finance office wants to know what’s happening with you. You’ll need to tell them about obvious changes like your phone number, address, household income and bank account, as well as less obvious life events like getting married, moving abroad or working for yourself.

Not updating your details may mean missing out on funding at uni or, if you’re overpaid, having to pay back the extra. Not replying to emails or passing on info after uni could even mean being charged higher interest rates or even penalty fees.

Repaying early could be more expensive

You can choose to clear your student debt or make higher repayments at any time. This might be tempting if you want to be free of your loan asap, but it’s usually only worth it for higher earners (i.e., those with a starting salary above £30,000).

For everyone else, it could mean paying back more than if you’d let the loan run its natural course. Plus, once you funnel extra money towards your loan, you can’t get it back later on (i.e., if you’re skint or want to spend it on something else). Think it over carefully and only pay-up when you can afford to.

Warning: The terms aren't set in stone

Shockingly, the Student Loan’s terms can be amended even after you’ve signed the contract. Interest rates are the obvious example, but the earnings threshold and even loan wipeout can be tweaked or dropped at will.

The last time this happened, the government backtracked on a promise to increase the salary threshold to take the pressure off repayments, and only reverted to the original agreement after a lot of noise from Save the Student and other campaigners.

It’s impossible to know exactly how political gestures like this will play out. In the meantime, we’ll always report what’s going and keep this guide updated.

You may have to repay grants if you drop out

Each year, some students will find uni just isn't the right call, or that money or personal issues make it impossible to carry on. If that's you, don't throw in the towel until you've talked it over with a uni advisor or the Student Finance team.

In particular, be clear about if and how you have to give back any non-repayable funds, such as grants and bursaries. Dropping out may also nix your chances of getting Student Finance again in the future.

The other time you might have to repay free funding is if you bodge the numbers on your application (or don't update your details) and end up getting overpaid. Keep an eye on it!

5 tips for slashing student debt

student debt

Credit: Columbia Pictures

  1. Sniff out hidden funding

    Hundreds miss out on free money each year because they don't know it’s there or assume they’re not eligible – yet almost all students have a shot at extra funding.

  2. Avoid unnecessary borrowing

    When you can afford to pay it back, borrowing is perfectly safe. Yet it’s very easy to slip up, so don’t touch credit cards, loans or even a 0% overdraft without a plan. If you’re using credit to cope with hardship or cover up other debts, read this first.

  3. Make cash on the side

    A job at uni can be a game-changer: it’s good for your CV and your bank balance. Search for a part-time job or try these making money ideas on for size.

  4. Don't lose out on tax

    Not knowing how tax works can leave you poorer. For students, that’s typically because they overpay income tax or under-claim Student Finance. Our 5-min read on student tax tips will help you get what’s yours.

  5. Be money minded

    It doesn’t matter how much money you have coming in if you treat it like a bottomless refill. Always plan how to spend your wages, then make the most of every single pound by paying less for everything.

Now you've got your head wrapped around Student Finance, see what other student funding you may be able to bag to support your studies.


Megan Bogg

Hi, I've applied for my student finance, and have been awarded £4054, But my mum is on less than 25k a year. I rang them up and they said its because they haven't processed the decree absolute that I sent for proof of my mums divorce... I have to wait until the 1st June to find out if they're going to reassess it, but i'm really, really worried. They've updated the system and said that i'm awarded with £4054 and have sent a letter confirming that amount, is this likely to be changed?

Tom Grindrod

Same boat here

Mike Courtney

What happens if the parents income dramatically falls during the year (ie through unemployment). Is there a way that the maintenance loan can be reassessed and increased?

Jake Butler

Yes there is a way. You can apply for a change of circumstances. Please contact student finance about this.


Thank you for this article/post, really helpful.

Courtney Hepple

I am over 25 and looking to apply for a maintenance loan. Am I right in thinking SFE won’t need to ask my parents their household income, NI, financial information or check with HM Recenue and customs? It just goes off my own income?

Jake Butler

Hi Courtney, I believe that is correct.


Hi, why do SFE need my wife’s income? Will she have to pay if I don’t? Such as if I died / divorce or was in employment less than £25k (sorry it’s a miserable question!)


Am I right in thinking that both the student loan AND the maintenance loan are both written off after 39 yrs?

Jake Butler

Hi Neil, the loans are combined into a lump sum in regards to your repayment. This means both are written off after 30 years (not 39).


Thanks Jake. I'm just about to start my second year and I didn't apply for maintenance in my first year as I thought I would have to pay it back no matter what. I might as well take it then as it to reality I may never pay it back if I don't earn enough to clear it all at 30yr. Many thanks


Hi there, I'm going to be studying business in the UK then moving over to the US to complete a masters degree part time while working over there. Graduate roles in the area I want to work in start at around $50 000 a year, which is around £35 000. How would the repayments work for this? I understand I have to pay 9% of £14,000 which would be around £130 a month but how would I do this? Would I have to create a standing order of some sort to pay money towards the loan? Would I have to pay international transfer fees and change the amount I pay every month in line with exchange rates or would there be a system to do this automatically?

Jake Butler

Hi Kai, you can contact the student loans company as they should have the repayment thresholds for each separate country.

Great Glen

the table for household income and maintenance loan are incorrect, I have received much less loan in relation to the household income

Jake Butler

Hi Glen, there's a few things here.

The table is based on a student living away from home and out of London.

The table was also recently updated and is based on the stats for the 2018/19 term.

Both of these things will likely be why you received less.


Hello. I am planning to study this year. I have an EU citizenship and been living in the UK for almost 4 years. Am I eligible for the maintenance loan?

Jake Butler

Hi Dan, unfortunately the government website says you must have been living in the UK for at least 5 years before you begin your studies in order to be eligible for a maintenance loan as an EU national in the UK.


Hello. Does that have to be 5 consecutive years? I've also lived in the UK when I was a kid.

Jake Butler

It has to be consecutive as far as I'm aware.


HI there, great post. I'm looking to start Full-Time this year. I have been living in the UK for over 5 years now. I became EU citizen around 6 , which means my parents are not EU citizen and still live in Argentina. I fully support myself and don't get any money from them but in any case how would I work out proving their income from over there or would I have to do it to start with? I live in London and my yearly income goes well under £25.000.

Jake Butler

Hi Lucas, I believe that under these circumstances you'd likely apply as an independent. I would double check with student finance though.



My query is: I have been studying with sponsorship from my work. Until now I have had no need of a loan for either the tuition fees (work sponsored) or the maintenance loan (part time study and two good incomes). However, I separated from my husband last year. I will be taking the final year of my MSc from Sept 2018 - can I apply for a maintenance loan for the final year (essentially the dissertation). Everything I have read makes reference to payments in years 1 & 2 only? Thanks for any help/advice you can offer.

Jake Butler

Hi, you'll likely need to check our postgrad loan guide for info.

Unfortunately I don't think you'll be eligible as you've already started your MSc.


Thanks for the link Jake - I'll check this out. I agree that it make not be possible, but would kick myself if it was an option and I hadn't bothered finding out. Thanks again.

R Mac

My nephew has ditched uni but is still receiving his maintenance loan and spending it, surely this is fraud? He doesn’t seem to care. Please advise. I’m sure this is going to catch up with him

Jake Butler

Your nephew needs to be very careful as student finance can ask for a refund on the money.

Andrew Turner

Hi i have twins planning to go to uni this september. Whilst, i am fortunate with having a high income, unfortunately with property losses (no house) and 2 other kids, having to top up the maintenance grant for two kids at the same time is going to be really tough-- 1 is ok- are there any mechanisms to take this into account on their maintenance assessment ? thanks

Jake Butler

Hi Andrew, you've exposed a severe issue with the student finance system. If you have more than one child the adjustment for the household income is only £1130 a year.

This means they take that much off your household income to account for you having more than one child at uni. It's not enough though. The system is broken but unfortunately there's little you can do about it I'm afraid.

Andrew Turner

Thanks for advising . I agree , the adjustment seems to be totally ineffective , unfortunately the consequence meaning the pot of funds will have to be split between two, so they will have significantly reduced funding.

karen yates

I am a mum . When we apply for a maintenance loan, can we borrow les than what they offer as I want to contribute myself to avoid a debt st the end. Thanks

Jake Butler

Hi Karen, I believe this is possible but you will have to talk to student finance. I would like to offer my advice here and would generally recommend that you don't do this. Remember that your son/daughter may never pay back their full loan (unless they're a high earning graduate). This means that you may end up foregoing money that may never have to be paid back anyway. You'd be better to save that money you were looking to contribute and use it to help out in future (eg with a deposit for a house).

Please look into this a little more before making the decision and remember that student loan debt is like no other.

Noona fan

Hi, due to my circumstances, I need to apply by a paper application. As of right now, I've decided not to apply for maintenance loan however, what if I decided to apply for maintenance loan once I've sent off my application?

Jake Butler

Hi Noona, I'm not sure on this one. I suppose you would have to contact student finance to ask what would happen in that instance. Thanks.

Ms S

Hi, I have one child at uni going in to her final year and another starting this year. I'm divorced and up till now my household income has been assessed on my income alone which has been vaguely manageable and I have topped up my child's living expenses which has not been easy. I have since remarried (just last year) but I don't live with my spouse and he doesn't and has never contributed to the household income at all nor should he. We are independent. He doesn't contribute to the children either obviously. But I have been told I have to include his finances even though we live in different parts of the UK. I am concerned this will impact on their potential for a maintenance loan if they look at both our incomes do thy have a legal right to request this?

Jake Butler

Hi, as far as I know you may have to talk to them and ask for mitigating circumstances. They sometimes allow students to prove that they are independent of their parents in a similar way. I believe you'd have to prove without doubt that there is no money passed between you and your spouse.

Having said that I feel you may be on the wrong side of the rulings here. Eg. similar to how a non married couple living together don't get to take advantage of tax breaks etc it may be that a married couple are seen as a joint income in the eyes of student finance whether living together or not I'm afraid.

Bryan Sandford

On my application for student finance it asks if you're living at home or living away from home. What do you put if you spend say 36 weeks at uni then 16 weeks at home?

Jake Butler

Hi Bryan. That would be classed as living away from home as you're not living at home while you're studying.


Hi My daughter is starting uni in September 2018. According to the caculator she will be entitled to a maintenance grant of £4193. Her accommodation will be £5000 per year. Does this mean that as her parents we have to pay the shortfall in accommodation plus all her living costs?

Jake Butler

Hi Sarah, thanks for getting in touch. The maintenance grant is no longer offered so I'm assuming it's a maintenance loan.

It's quite common for the maintenance loan amount to barely even cover rent and our studies have shown that almost 75% of students need to get a part time job or rely on parents financially throughout university.

Please be aware that students in 2018 will get slightly more than stated on this page (as we still have the stats for 2017) although it won't be by that much.

As your daughter it not getting the max loan it's obviously because of your household income. Interestingly (even though they don't say it) the government "expects" parents to make up the shortfall.

We've actually made a simple student loan calculator (you can use the 2017 stats) which tells you how much you can expect to contribute (obviously it's optional though).

I hope this info helps. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Marcella Taylor-Smith

hi my son is, starting university 2018 sept, he has around 8000.00 savings will this affect his entitlement for maintenance grant etc

Jake Butler

Hi Marcella, the only time savings are taken into account is when the interest is counted as earnings. Given that this will be so low it's unlikely to have any affect. It's worth noting that the maintenance grant no longer exists for new students either.


Hello! I am a first year going into second year in 2018. I used my mother and stepfather as my sponsors for my maintenance loan, so I can get the max. amount but a recent promotion means that they will just go over the 25,000. Is it possible to switch my sponsor to my real father when reapplying for the loan so I can still get the max. amount?

Jake Butler

Hi Kayleigh, this could be a risky tactic as you'll likely be asked by student finance to justify the change.

Miss E

I am leaving my course but have already received my maintenance loan for this term. will student loan company ask for this back?

Jake Butler

Hi Miss E. If you drop out you will have to repay the loan at the same terms as other grads (eg when you earn over a certain amount after leaving your course). However, the uni and student finance also have the right to ask for any money back that was overpaid to you. It's likely that the funding for this term would fall under that so they will most likely ask for it back. Hope that helps.

Mrs s

My daughter has a placement year in America as part of her degree, does she get any help with funding from student finance - please can someone help me

Jake Butler

Hi, this can depend on the university and the course. I would suggest talking to the university about this.

Michael Sallows

My son has started at uni and between myself and his Mum combined with savings we are attempting to support him to avoid him having to use his maintenance loan; he will also find a part time job to chip in. He is under some per pressure from his student friends who are fully utilising their maintenance loans as they are saying it'll be like paying a little extra tax later in life plus it's possible it'll not need to fully be repaid. My view is anything we can do to minimise his ultimate final debt limiting this to just his tuition fees surely should be of use - a £30k final debt must be better than £55k? There is no firm legislation that protects the 9% payback so this could increase in later year s. I'd really appreciate hearing your views- many thanks.

Jake Butler

Hi Michael, thanks for getting in touch. Obviously it would be nice to have a crystal ball in cases. The matter of fact is that you might be potentially turning down money that your son will never end up paying back anyway. In this case it would be better to use the savings later in life when he is looking for a deposit on a property etc.

My suggestion would be to have a little play with our student loan repayment calculator.

You can see the difference if you change the maintenance loan to 0 and compare it to what he would get. You can also change the expected graduate earnings for your son. Depending on his degree and location, most students tend to start on a salary in the low 20s.

In many cases you will notice that he is likely to repay exactly the same amount over back with or without the maintenance loan. It's only if your son was to go on to be a very high earner that your tactic would benefit him in terms of repayments.

Ask us a question or share your thoughts!

Tweet @savethestudent - Facebook Message - Email