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Finance for students leaving care

Finance for students leaving careStudent finance can be complicated, but taking the time to understand it can help you make sure you get everything you're entitled to.

Student loans

There are two parts to the standard student loan: the tuition fee loan, which covers your university fees, and the maintenance loan, which helps with living costs.

The fee loan will cover your fees in full, whatever the university you go to charges.

The maintenance loan is based on your household income. As a care leaver, you will be considered an independent student, which means that how much you get is based on your earnings (and those of your partner, if you live with them).

If you receive Income Support or Housing Benefit, you may get a larger maintenance loan.

You won't have to pay back any part of your student loan until you have left university and you are earning more than £21,000 a year. You'll repay 9% of everything you earn over that amount - so if you earn £25,000 a year, you'll repay £360 a year, or £30 each month. If your earnings drop below the £21,000 cutoff, you'll stop repaying, so you don't need to worry about keeping up repayments if you lose your job. For most graduates, the higher salary you can get with a degree makes up for some of the money going on repayments, although this is not guaranteed.

If you don't pay back all of your loan within 25 years, the remaining debt will be cancelled.

Support from your university

Most universities offer bursaries for people with an income below a particular level, and some have them specifically for care leavers, too. Propel can help you to find which universities offer this.

Bursaries might also be based on things like whether you are from the local area, or your academic success. You should be able to find details of what your university offers on their website, or by contacting the student services department.

Bursaries are normally cash which you can spend however you need to, but in some cases they may be restricted to particular costs like accommodation.

In some cases, you may be offered a fee waiver instead, which reduces the tuition fees you have to pay. This will mean that the total amount you borrow in student loans is lower, but you won't have any extra cash while you are studying.

If you run into trouble with money at university, you may be able to get an emergency grant or loan from the Access to Learning Fund. This is money provided by the government which universities can use to help students who might have to leave university if they don't get extra support. It's up to the university who they give it to, but care leavers are often one of the groups that gets priority. It may have a different name at your university, such as 'Discretionary Hardship Fund'.

Support from your local authority

Care leavers under 25 and going to university for the first time are entitled to a £1,500 bursary from their local authority each year, known as the Higher Education Bursary. This comes in two equal instalments.

If you are living on your own for the first time, you may be able to get a grant to help you with this as well. However, this varies between different LAs.