How do I pay for university?

This article was last updated on 25 September 2020.

Starting at university is an exciting time, but working out how to pay for it can be a bit daunting. Finding out what help is on offer and how to navigate all the grant and loan options can be confusing too. But don't worry, we've got you. Here is a quick guide to all you need to know.

Can I afford to go to university?

Here are the top three things you need to know:

  • Tuition fee loans are offered to university students to pay their university fees. These are paid straight to the university

  • If you come from a medium- or low-wage family, you can apply for a maintenance loan to cover your living expenses. It is paid straight into your account

  • Once you are on a high enough income after university, you will start to pay your loan back.

Zach finds out how a student loan can help him afford university

Student finance - What are my options?

If you are considering going to university but are not sure if you can afford it, there are several options that might help. You could apply for a student loan to cover tuition fees and, depending on your income, also help with your living expenses.

There are two types of loan that you can apply for:

  • Tuition fee loans - These cover the cost of teaching you at university. Everyone can apply for these and they are paid straight to the university.

  • Maintenance loans - You may qualify for these, depending on your family income. A maintenance loan will cover your living expenses and is paid directly to you

Some universities also offer grants, bursaries and scholarships. These are sums of money that you can apply for and which do not have to be paid back. Check to see if the university you're interested in offers grants, bursaries or scholarships

What's the catch?

A loan will obviously need to be paid back. Interest is also charged on the loan, so you might end up paying more than you borrowed.

The good news is you don't start paying back your loan until you have a job that is paid above a certain amount. Currently that is over £26,575 a year - September 2020.

When you pay back your loan, the repayment is only a certain percentage of what you earn in a year. Currently it's set at 9%, but this could change in the future.

If after 30 years you haven't paid off your loan in full, it will be written off and you are free of the debt. This won't affect your credit rating!

If you want more information, Martin Lewis from offers some no-nonsense advice on student finance in Martin Lewis: Student Loans Decoded. (Note that the threshold figure quoted in the video is slightly out of date. This figure is now £26,575 - September 2020.)

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