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How to afford to send your child to university

If you have a child hoping to go to university in the next few years, chances are that you are more than a little concerned by the jump in tuition fees. Here is what you can do to prepare your finances and theirs for university life.

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Going to university can be an essential step onto the career ladder, but with tuition fees up to £9,250 a year, getting a degree has never been less affordable.

If you or your children are planning to go to university in the not too distant future it is essential that you consider how you will cover the cost sooner rather than later.

Find out what it will cost


Students that started their education from 2012 can be charged up to £9,000 a year in fees alone. From the 2016/17 academic year, this rose to £9,250.

However, not all institutions have decided to set their fees to this maximum level. Check how much the universities your son or daughter is looking at plan to charge for their chosen subject and take this into consideration before they apply.

Accommodation costs

Accommodation costs represent one of the biggest outlays for students.

  • Most undergraduate students spend the first year of their university life in university halls of residence before moving into private rented accommodation.

  • Compare their cost of staying in halls to that of renting a room in a house in the town or city your child will be studying.

  • If your son or daughter is studying closer to home then they may save money by commuting to university rather than paying accommodation costs.

  • Some student halls may be catered, meaning that they cost more but will provide meals for your son or daughter. Work out whether they would spend more on food if left to their own devices.

  • Your son or daughter may also be able to cut the costs of student accommodation by volunteering as a warden, although this is not always open to undergraduate students.

Start saving

Saving in advance is a must for any potential student and their parents. Even if your son or daughter is heading off to university in just a few months, it is never too late to start putting money aside, especially as the first few months can be some of the most expensive.

You can also encourage them to do the same by taking advantage of the better interest rates offered to under 18s savings accounts.

Compare instant access accounts to find an option that helps you and your child save for the cost of university life and lets you draw your money when you need to.

Compare instant access savings accounts

Check for bursaries and grants

Checking each university's website for grants and bursaries and applying for any that you are eligible for is a good way of reducing the cost of your child's university education.

Most universities offer money to the highest academic achievers, to encourage applications from the highest achieving students. So if your son or daughter needs any extra motivation to study, the possibility of a financial reward for their efforts could help spur them on.

Apply for Student Finance

Your children should not have to pay tuition fees up front in full but can instead apply for a student loan to cover the cost.

The student loan that your son or daughter can apply for is split into a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan:

Tuition fee loan

The tuition fee loan is paid directly to the university to cover the annual costs of tuition fees.

This means that the money never actually passes through your child's bank account.

Maintenance loan

The maintenance loan is designed to help provide funds to cover the costs of living while studying.

The amount your child will be eligible for will depend on your household income and where they are living during study. In 2017/18 the maximum available to students is follows:

  • £7,097 for students living at home while studying

  • £8,430 for students living outside of London and away from home

  • £11,002 for students living in London and away from home

  • £9,654 for students living or studying abroad for at least one term

Remember, while a student loan is likely to be one of the cheapest ways of borrowing money it will still have to be repaid once your son or daughter is working and earning enough to pay it back.

Student loans on GOV.UK

Compare student bank accounts

A student bank account is likely to be the centre of your child's finances throughout their university life. Choosing an account that best suits their needs could save them a substantial sum over the duration of a 3 or 4 year university course.

The biggest asset that is ordinarily associated with student bank accounts is the interest free overdraft facility on offer. These can be anywhere up to £3,000 in the first year and can prove to be a cheap way to borrow money when compared to student credit cards and bank loans.

Many student accounts also offer other perks like travel insurance or a student rail card that may prove useful and save your child money during their university life.

Re-examine your finances

One way that you may be able to help your son or daughter is by cutting your costs in other areas allowing you to save more towards their university fund.

Your utility bills, mortgage provider and financial products are areas you might want to consider reviewing.

Prepare a budget

If your son or daughter has had little experience in managing their money, then work out:

  • What their major costs will be while away at university

  • What you can afford to contribute

  • Any other income they will have like maintenance loans or a wage from a job

You could then prepare a budget with them before they leave, outlining how much they can afford to spend each week.

How to write a budget

The ultimate student budget planner

Shop smart

Chances are that you will need to buy quite a few household items to prepare your son and daughter for life away from home.

Compare prices online before you buy, or even while you are out shopping and you could end up saving quite a considerable sum of money in total.

Consider renting out their room

If you need to find extra income to help support your son or daughter. You could consider renting out their room to a lodger while they are away studying.

Many lodgers will only need a room during the week meaning that if your child wants to come home at the weekend that they would still be able to.

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