Student Finance: What You Need to Know

Student finance UK

The other week, I went to a conference for people who work in Widening Participation, the sector that helps a more diverse range of people get into university.

The opening talk was given by the shadow secretary for education who went on and on about how students are leaving university with such huge debts and how this is terrible.

It was at this point that I knew that I didn’t care for his thoughts.

Just in case this gentleman is reading, and also anyone else who wants to know about money and being a student, I’d like to lay out everything you need to know about student finance.

Let’s go.

When and what do they pay back

Student Loans Repayment Chart

Source – Student Loans Company

OK, so here’s the most important thing I want you to know. Graduates don’t start paying back their loans until they start earning over £25,000.

If the graduate forevermore earns less than £25,000 then they will never have to pay a penny.

So, with this in mind, the actual amount of the student loan is completely irrelevant. The student debt could be A MILLION TRILLION GAZILLION POUNDS and if the grad earns £27,000 then they would still just pay £15 a month.

Also, after 30 years, the student debt disappears. Poof. Gone. (If you are an older graduate, here’s a list of when this happens for you).

ANYONE – politicians, press, “experts”, parents, teachers – who talks about the student debt being so big and a problem needs to get their facts right. They’re spreading myths and that’s not cool.

This loan does gain interest, but again it doesn’t matter because they still pay the same amount back. The debt is not taken into account with credit ratings, mortgages or any other kind of money lending.

Therefore, if you have money, most people advise you to not pay off the loan. Even if a student has enough to not get out a loan, it’s better to just have it and pay it back. Unless you like throwing your money away.

How much you get

Maintenance Loan Chart

Source – UCAS

Aside from the tuition fees being covered, students will also receive a maintenance loan which covers some living costs. You can see if the chart above the maximum for each kind of student.

The Student Loans Company looks at the student’s home situation (how many earners in the home, how much income is coming in) to work out how much the student will get. Things like parents splitting up or parents retiring can greatly increase the amount the student will get.

I have heard really heartbreaking stories of step parents refusing to help a student financially, but their salary being taken into account when these are totted up, therefore the student not getting their full amount – it’s not always a fair system.

I always tell the school students I engage with that they should not expect that the maintenance loan will just be a magic blanket over all their money issues. They should expect to get a part time job, or maybe look for grants or bursaries – of which there are many. In a study done in 2015, it came to light that 77% of students work to support their studies.

What are the issues?

If they have the ability and motivation to, ANY young person is able to go to university. Finance does not stop them. However, there are a number of things that I find really frustrating and would like see to challenged in this area.

Student housing is bloody expensive

During a recent talk I attending given by the Student Finance Company, the average student rent is £130 a week. A WEEK. In London, this is £220 a week.

My rent is £500 a month. Students are paying more than me, and I am a full time worker. This is disgusting.

Universities don’t often control student rent; it’s set by companies like Unite who own student residences. When student flats are built, companies do not have to comply to the rule that says that social and affordable housing must be built either. Packing students into these small single rooms and then renting the same rooms out over the holidays on Airbnb, these companies are making a fortune.

I recently wrote to my local MP, Daniel Zeichner about this and got a weak reply (saying how large student loans are…ugh) but I would really love to look into how I can fight for caps to be put on how much companies can charge students.

Students are not given enough information on how money works

As you know, I am really passionate about financial skills. People just aren’t teaching teens how to finance before they go off to university, so when they get their loans through they can’t help but blow it before Freshers’ Week is over.

Because they’ve never before had so much responsibility, they panic and look for quick wins to get money back out of the red.

Research by the Gambling Commission shows that students are frequently turning to gambling as a potential source of income, something I have not come across. But there are also students working in adult industries to help make ends meet.

When I was at uni myself, I knew of a lot of girls who would do things like work on sex phonelines and sell used underwear – it wasn’t always just for money, but also to test the boundaries of their new found independence. I don’t see this as being as huge an issue – as long as the student knows when to stop and doesn’t get themselves into dangerous situations.

I think that these things aren’t a sign that the cost of uni is too much, I think that these show that students want quick fixes to their issues because they don’t know how to rectify them otherwise.

Stacey Turner, managing director at online student bill-sharing tool Split the Bills, suggests some other ways to make money online:

  • taking part in online surveys
  • reviewing music, websites and apps for money
  • blogging or starting your own website
  • no-risk matched betting
  • selling second-hand textbooks

Some of these are quite funny (to date, I have made £40 on this blog – it’s been going 5 years or so), but there are other ways to make money. You know, like getting a part time job… Many universities are crying out for more people to join their Student Ambassador

scheme. They usually pay very well. Just saying.

I think that by using tools like Split the Bills and Monzo (detailed in my finance post above) can really help students manage better. The best thing to do, of course, is to make it compulsory for these skills to be taught.


If there were three things I want you to take away from this, they would be:

  1. I don’t want to hear anyone complain about the size of student loans again.

  2. University is accessible to anyone, they just need to work with the help available.

  3. We MUST start talking to young people about money. Giving them resources that help them understand it better.


  1. Good article Charlotte! There seems to be that prevailing attitude towards Student Loans, however I’ve always felt that it isn’t ‘real’ debt for exactly the reasons you describe.

    The positives of study – meeting new people, being exposed to new ideas, developing your research skills and demonstrating your commitment to future employers – outweigh the negatives.

    My dad gleefully forwarded me the letters after my Undergrad degree confirming I’m already £21k in student debt👍

    • Charlotte says

      Thank you! Yes, my dad saves mine for me too – slowly chipping away at it, though I doubt I’ll clear it before it disappears.

  2. Why do I live in America, honestly??


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