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Primary Education News
News A parent asks about... helping students with money
In our series Parents in a Panic, Emily Wight answers a reader's question about how much financial support to give students
David Bishop writes:
Dear Emily, My son is starting university this autumn. I'm concerned that his maintenance loan won't be enough to cover his living costs. Should I be supporting him financially while he studies? How much money do parents usually give their children?
Before going to university, most teenagers aren't used to thinking about their weekly food budget or paying the bills. Trying to adapt isn't easy: a recent NUS survey found that more than half of undergraduate students worry about not having enough money to cover their basic living expenses. So it's normal to feel concerned about how your son will get by.
Don't worry though, because there is help available. A student living away from home outside of London is entitled to a maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company of anything up to £5,500 per year. This loan is higher if your son chooses to study in London.
It's true though that in many cases the maintenance loan just covers the cost of accommodation, and your son will have to remember that he needs to pay it back when he leaves university.
But as well as the maintenance loan, some students are eligible for a non-repayable means-tested grant. This will be based partly on your income, and if you're eligible it will help your son with extra costs at university.
It's also worth checking out any bursaries or scholarships that individual universities and departments might offer. EU students can apply for financial help with the cost of tuition, and individual universities may well have international advice teams to help if you're not from the UK.
But aside from maintenance loans and means-tested grants, should you be picking up any extra costs? Well, that's up to you, but just to give you an idea of what other parents are thinking: a recent report from Family Investments has revealed that 79% of parents are now putting money aside for university as soon as their child is born.
When it comes to how much parents help out it really does vary. I asked a couple of parents to help give you advice.
Jonathan Wilson, whose daughter Hannah studies at Bristol University, says he gives her £600 per month to cover accommodation and living costs. He says that with the amount of debt she'll be in already from her tuition fees, he was reluctant for her to take out a maintenance loan as well. She also works when she's back home during the holidays.
Wilson says: "I couldn't pay all her tuition fees, so I'm basically paying for her maintenance. Overall we feel fairly resentful about it, because it doesn't seem fair on youngsters."
If you can't afford to put up this amount each month then it might be that your son needs to work to earn his extra cash. Working during holidays is common – and many also work part-time alongside their degree course.
Geraldine Bailey, head of student welfare and counselling at Middlesex University, says: "Gone are the days when students can just turn up to lectures and seminars – they do actually have to do part-time work as well."
Des Figueiredo has three children at university. Each receives a maintenance loan and a means-tested, non-repayable grant, but Figueiredo can't afford to give them any extra. He says: "It's difficult – we haven't been able to financially contribute to their living while they've been away, but while they've been at home we'll do whatever we can in terms of not charging them rent in the holidays."
Maybe your son will decide to work in his spare time, but it's worth taking into account that some parents like Figueirido encourage their children not to work part-time alongside their studies.
He says: "We encouraged them to have a life on top of academia. Rehema does the student newspaper for 16 hours a week which she loves and the others have their own interests. There's more to life than just getting a degree and clearing your debt and that's what I felt we needed to encourage in terms of shaping their characters and experiences."
Have a conversation with your son about how much you can afford to help, and how much he could afford to work without interrupting his studies. And don't forget about all the loans, grants and bursaries you can apply to for help.
• Is your son or daughter at university? How much are you supporting them financially?