how they work and what they pay

Laveta Brigham

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Stumped by student finance? Here’s the Guardian Money guide to what it is, how it works and what you need to do.

Help, I haven’t applied!

Don’t worry, it’s not too late, but you should get a move on. Some applications can be processed in two days, but some can take up to six weeks or more, says the Student Loans Company (SLC). It will try to make sure late applicants have at least some funding in place at the start of term.

Remind me how it all works

Student finance is the official government funding for university tuition fees and living costs.

The tuition fee loan covers course fees and is paid directly to your university or college.

The maintenance loan is designed to help with living costs such as accommodation and food. How much you get depends on your household income, where you are living and where you’ll be studying. It is typically paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term.

Both must be paid back once you graduate and are earning above a minimum salary.

You must apply to the student finance body in your country. You can do it online at depending on whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

I’m now going to a different university

How much maintenance loan you get depends on where you’ll be living. If you’d already applied for finance but now need to update your details – for example, change your university – the easiest way is by logging into your student finance account.

How much maintenance loan do I get?

According to money advice website Save the Student, the average is about £6,480 a year. Each country within the UK has its own rules, so it depends where you live. It’s complicated, and a lot comes down to household income. For example, in England for 2020-21, the maximum loan for a student living at home is £7,747 and the minimum £3,410. If you’ll be living away from home, outside London, the maximum and minimum are £9,203 and £4,289. If you’ll be living away from home in London, it’s £12,010/£5,981. Generally, you’ll get the maximum if your annual household income is below £25,000, while the minimums kick in above a threshold ranging from £58,000 to £69,000.

My family has suffered a big income drop because of coronavirus

You may be eligible for a higher level of funding. Again, the rules for how this works vary. In England you can apply for a “current year income assessment” if you think your household income this tax year (2020-21) will be at least 15% lower than the tax year you’ve been asked to give details about (for those heading off in the coming weeks it’s 2018-19). It’s a similar system in Wales. In Scotland, if the income figure has dropped into a lower bracket, Student Awards Agency Scotland can look at a student’s funding again based on current estimated income. In Northern Ireland income must have fallen by 5% or more to be reassessed.

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