STUDENTS going to university this year can claim benefits and grants to boost their bank balance by tens of thousands of pounds.
It's a well known fact that students are often strapped for cash, but you could be eligible for more free money than you realise.
Young people across the UK are nervously waiting to find out the results of their A Level exams on Tuesday – and whether they've bagged a university place.
It could take off some pressure to know that you can get extra help with your finances while studying.
Of course, how much you can get depends on your circumstances so you're not guaranteed the full amount.
But it will come in handy as two-thirds of students rely on their loans to finance themselves, according to anti-poverty charity Turn2us.
Most full-time students are excluded from claiming means-tested benefits, but there are some exceptions.
Below we explain what you can get and how to apply.
Grants and schemes
Student Finance provides help with tuition fees and living expenses in the form of grants and loans from the government.
But if that isn't enough, bursaries and charitable grants can help you pay for items such as books or equipment.
Using Turn2us' grants search tool, we found ten available grants for a female aged 18 living in London.
Some of them are only available for people who work at specific companies, while others are available for students who struggle financially.
How much you can get depends on your individual circumstances.
You may also be able to get course specific grants, such as medical, social work or for teacher courses.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), for example, offers bursaries for students in its field.
Hardship funds may be available directly from your university or college – you'll need to contact them directly to find out what they offer.
Some universities might also offer scholarships if you hit certain targets or if you take part in extra curricular activities such as music or sport.
If you don't yet know which university you'll study at, you can register for free on The Scholarship Hub website to see listings for each university.
Students who are parents or who are living with a disability can also get extra financial help.
Disabled Students’ Allowances are available for students with a disability, long-term health condition or specific learning difficulty.
Or if you have children or you're responsible for other adults, you may be able to get help through the Childcare Grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance and Adult Dependents’ Grant schemes.
Full-time university students can also get benefits as long as they meet certain criteria.
Just keep in mind that the amount you can get varies wildly depending on your circumstances – below we explain what you need to know.
One means-tested benefit that's available for students is Universal Credit, which is paid to those on a low income or who are out of work.
You can claim it if any of the below applies to you:
- You are under 21, doing a course that will lead to a qualification at the same level as or below A-Levels, and do not and cannot live with your parents
- You are responsible for a child
- You get Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and you have limited capability for work
- You are over pension credit age
- You live with a partner who can claim Universal Credit
- You have taken time out from your course for illness or caring responsibilities, are now recovered or your caring responsibilities have ended, and you are waiting to go back to your course.
How much you can get depends on whether you're single or claiming as a couple, your age, how much you earn and whether you have any children.
For example, single claimants under the age of 25 will get a basic allowance of £257.33 per month from October while those above 25 will get £324.84.
If you're claiming as a couple and you're below 25, you'll get £403.93 in total.
Or if either of you are 25 or older, you'll get £509.91.
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) can’t usually be claimed by full-time students, but there are exceptions.
You may be able to claim if you're a lone parent, you're in a couple and have a child and claim during the summer holidays or if you are on a special Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) related course.
If you're part of a couple with a child where both of you are full-time students then you can claim during your summer holidays.
You may also be able to get JSA for a limited period after taking time out from study.
If eligible, you can get up to £73.10 a week, or £3,801 a year.
Just keep in mind you can't get both Universal Credit and JSA at the same time.
You can apply for JSA online or on the phone – see Gov.uk for the phone contact details – and you’ll need to attend a short interview at your local Job Centre before the payments start.
You can no longer make a new claim for Income Support but if you already claim it you should be able to continue while you study.
Once again, it's only available to those who don't get Universal Credit.
Income Support is available for students who are lone parents of a child under five, a lone foster parent of a child under 16, or you're under 21 (in non-advanced education) and you receive no financial support from your parents.
You may also be able to claim during the summer holidays in some cases and the amount you get depends on your circumstances.
Contributory Employment and Support Allowance
If you are not able to work due to an illness or disability, you may be entitled to contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) while you are a full-time student if you have previously worked and paid national insurance contributions.
In order to receive it, you need to first undergo what’s called a “Work Capability Assessment”.
This is carried out to see how your illness or disability affects your ability to work.
Once it’s been completed you will then be put into one of two groups and this affects how much you will receive.
Depending on your individual circumstances, you might be able to claim up to £110.75 per week, or £5,759 per year.
Just keep in mind you won't be able to get it if you already receive JSA.
To apply you’ll need to call 0800 055 6688, between Monday and Friday, 8am to 6pm
Personal Independence Payment
The personal independence payment (PIP) is available for those aged at least 16 who aren't yet receiving the state pension.
You also need to have a health condition or disability which has caused you to have difficulties with daily living for at least three months, and you must expect this to continue for at least nine months.
You must have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years, and be in one of these countries when you apply.
The process is different in Northern Ireland – find out more about this here.
The daily living payment is either £60 or £89 per week and the mobility payment is either £23.70 or £62.55.
To make a new PIP claim you’ll need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 917 2222, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Last but not least, child benefit is available to families with children from the moment the birth is registered.
The oldest child receives £21.15 per week and any subsequent children receive £14 per week.
If you or your partner earns more than £50,000 you may have to pay a tax charge in order to receive it which is called the "High Income Child Benefit Charge".
For those whose gross earnings are between £50,000 and £60,000, the charge to receive child benefit is 1 per cent of the child benefit money you receive for every £100 you earn over £50,000.
If you or your partner receives £60,000 or more per year, the charge for receiving child benefit is the same as the total amount of child benefit you're eligible for, effectively wiping out any gain.
You can find out exactly how much you’re entitled to with the Government’s free child benefit charge calculator.
Only one person can get child benefit for a child, and they need to be responsible for the child aged under 16, or under 20 if they are in approved education or training.
The person responsible for the child usually pays for things such as clothes, food, and birthday and Christmas presents.
It is also available for those who adopt or foster children, as long as the local council isn’t paying anything towards the child’s accommodation or maintenance.
To make a claim for the first time you’ll need to print and fill in the child benefit claim form CH2 and send this to the child benefit office (the address is on the form) along with your child’s original birth or adoption certificate.
Full-time students don't have to pay council tax during their course.
Loads of retailers also give students extra good deals to make the costs of studying a little bit easier to handle.
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