Investing in student life will pay off

ARE you worried about the cost of going to university? Are concerns about debt stopping your teenager from going in to higher education. Today education reporter JAMES MARSTON speaks to Suffolk-based organisations determined to get as many of the county's students into higher education despite their fears.

ARE you worried about the cost of going to university? Are concerns about debt stopping your teenager from going in to higher education.

Today education reporter JAMES MARSTON speaks to Suffolk-based organisations determined to get as many of the county's students into higher education despite their fears.

UNIVERSITY isn't cheap.

There's the fees, the rent, the books, the bills, the food-everything has to be paid for.

Today the government is urging students to find out what government support is available to help students while they study.

At Aimhigher Suffolk-an organisation which encourages youngsters to access higher education-they believe it's crucial to widen the participation of the county's students and young people in higher education.

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Julian Illman, Aimhigher manager, said: “Cost is a number one concern of many people irrespective of their education background.

“People on lower incomes have more concerns but in reality the onus on paying back student loans comes when a young person is earning after graduation and they do not have to pay fees up front.

“There are pockets of lower progression into higher education in Suffolk.

“Every area has deprivation which can affect progression. Also a young person who's parents haven't been through higher education can be six times less likely to access higher education.”

Mr Illman said parents are also worried about the cost of university.

He said: “People have to look at their ability to repay the debt and I think there is a concern among people that they will land themselves with excessive debt.

“Parents from low incomes want to live within their means and there are understandable concerns about debt.”

Fiona Fisk, also an Aimhigher manager, said living expenses can vary but rent is often about £4,000 a year.

“Life on campus can be cheaper and many students do that for the first year. Part of our work includes going into schools and doing budgeting exercises with students.”

Ms Fisk said University Campus Suffolk (UCS) is likely to attract students from the region keen to minimise the cost of study.

She added: “There a re lots of opportunities out there and lots of ways of going into higher education. The long-term benefits of university-better jobs and careers-far outweigh the initial concerns about cost of going.”

Are you worried about the cost of university? How will your family cope? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Writing for the Evening Star, Higher Education minister Bill Rammell speaks candidly about his experience of higher education and his determination to make sure everyone gets the same chances he did.

“Over the next few months I'm keen to ensure that every prospective student and their parents understand what financial help is available and urge them to take advantage of the support and finalise their funding applications.

“I want a broader proportion of people to be able to enjoy the benefits that going to university brings and as the first person in my family to go to university, I know that doing so transformed my life chances. “We also know more young people need higher education qualifications, recent research revealed 50pc of jobs by 2012 will require graduate level skills.

“I came from a working class background but my Mum always told me I should move into higher education. Essentially, she planted the idea in my head. She passed her 11 plus but her parents could not afford for her to go to Grammar school further away. This prompted her to always want me to do better.

“I attended Burnt Mill comprehensive in Harlow and achieved nine 'O' Levels and 'A' Levels in French and German. I then chose to read French and The University of Cardiff because of an inspirational languages teacher, Neville Morgan who had studied French at Cardiff himself. I went to university believing it would give me better chances and better jobs.

“For many people, going to university is a life-changing experience, and the best route to a secure future. I'll be doing everything during this critical period to communicate the facts to make sure the details of the new student financial support package and in particular details on the non-repayable grants are accessible and easy to understand. I urge students and parent to investigate their eligibility and apply now in order to avoid delays in payment.”

Free financial support now available to around half of England's students

Government urges students to take full advantage of non-repayable funding>

THE government is today urging all students in England to investigate what financial support they could be eligible for and apply now.

Under the new package, available from September 2006, students can apply for non-repayable grants of up to £2,700 per year which are calculated on their household income.

It is expected about half of new full-time students will benefit from these grants. Students can also gain further financial support from universities and colleges in the form of non-refundable bursaries.

This means that students paying the full £3,000 in tuition fees and in receipt of the full maintenance grant of £2,700 would receive a minimum bursary of £300, totalling over £8,000 in non-repayable support for a three year course.

Students can also apply for loans to cover tuition fees and living costs - these are not like commercial loans, but are linked directly to the rate of inflation - and students don't repay any loans until they're in work and earning more than £15,000.

Non-repayable Maintenance Grant - Evening Star Student Fact Sheet

The facts below are designed to give you a greater understanding of the non-repayable financial assistance now available so read below to find out what extra help might be available to you.

What are non-repayable grants?

From September 2006 higher education students, from lower income households, could be eligible for a non-repayable maintenance grant of up to £2,700.

This is free source of financial support supplied by the government.

Do you qualify?

Full-time Students:

It is expected that around half of all full-time students are likely to be eligible for a full or partial grant.

Those whose parents have an income of £17,500 or less will qualify for an annual maintenance grant of £2,700.

Partial grants are available for those students with a household income of between £17,501 and £37,425.

Part-Time Students:

Part-time students, studying more than 50pc of a full-time course can also apply for financial help. For instance, those studying 75pc or more of a full-time course, may be eligible for non-repayable support of up to £1,125 in the form of the fee grant.

Eligible part-time students can also apply for a course grant of up to £250.

Additional support is also available to eligible students in the form of the Access to learning Fund.

How much can you get?

Non-repayable maintenance grants of up to £2,700 per year are available to students from lower income households. This can equate to more than £8000 over the duration of a typical 3 year degree.

How much a student will receive will depend on their income and that of their household.

Students will therefore be means tested on the basis of family income.

How to apply?

Students are able to apply for the new maintenance grant support once course applications forms have been submitted.

Students only need to fill out one application form to cover the non-repayable maintenance grant, the tuition fee loan and the maintenance loan.

Paper applications opened in March 06; online applications opened in April 06.

The form (Form PN1) is available from local authorities or you can apply online through www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance

When to apply?

New students applying for means tested support need to apply before 30 June 2006 to ensure that monies are cleared in time for the start of your first term of your course.

Application forms for the part-time fee and course grants will be available from August 2006.

A new application will need to be made each year.

How is it paid?

Non-repayable maintenance grants will be paid in three instalments, one at the start of each term. Payments are made directly into the student's bank account.

Additional financial support:

Student Loan for Fees:

From September 2006, universities and colleges offering higher education courses in England will be allowed to charge up to £3,000 per year to all new students. Students can apply for the new Student Loan for Fees to cover the cost of these fees.

Student Loan for Maintenance:

Student loans to help with living costs are also available.

Repaying the Loans

The loans are totalled and students then repay the fee and maintenance loans once they have left university, are in employment and are earning over £15,000 per year. Repayments are linked to how much students earn not how much they owe. So someone earning £18,000 would pay back 9% on earnings over £15,000. That equates to £5.19 per week.

The table below shows the maximum maintenance loans available:

2006/07 Student living at home Student living away from home, in London Student living away from home, outside London

Maximum Full Year loan rate: £3,415 £6,170 £4,405

Maximum Final Year loan rate: £3,085 £5,620 £4,080

Bursaries:

Universities and colleges charging more than £2,700 a year for a course are required to provide additional non-repayable financial support, such as bursaries, to students who are receiving the full £2,700 maintenance grant. The students that receive the full maintenance grant, and are being charged the maximum fee of £3,000 a year, will receive at least £300 a year in additional financial support from their university or college in the form of a bursary. The amount of financial help will depend on the university or college. Some are offering much more so students should speak to the university or college that they wish to attend. Some universities and colleges are also offering bursaries to all students, so it's worth investigating as you may benefit.

Weblink www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance.

www.aimhigher.ac.uk/suffolk

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