When financing higher education, the costs can seem staggering, and it is important to educate oneself on all the options available in the way of financial assistance. Students demonstrating exceptional financial need may be eligible for additional types of financial aid, including grants and bursaries. Need based financial aid is based on income guidelines, and is awarded to students who may also demonstrate special circumstances requiring additional aid. Grants and bursaries are also non-repayable financial aid.
A grant is a non-repayable, government distributed, type of financial aid. This type of student aid is based on the income of the student’s family for the previous year. This type of funding was established to aid less financially equipped families. Grants are also available for students of special circumstance, such as those with disabilities and students who are lone-parents of dependent children.
Types of grants available:
• Higher Education Maintenance Grant: A Higher Education Maintenance Grant is based on yearly household income and full-time enrolment. The maximum available amount is £2,835 per year for households with income less than £25,000 yearly. Partial grant available for yearly household income up to £60,005. Important to note that up to £1,260 will be applied toward the maximum allowable funds available through the Maintenance Loan. Therefore, the maximum amount to be borrowed through the Maintenance Loan would be £6,475 less £1,260 (or £5,415).
• Special Support Grant: Special Support Grants are based on yearly household income and full-time enrolment. They are specifically targeted toward low-income families with an underlying issue, such as lone parents, that qualifies eligibility. The maximum amount available is £2,835. This would replace the Higher Education Maintenance Grant, and give students the ability to take out additional funds by borrowing the full amount of the Maintenance Loan.
• Fee Grant and Course Grant: Fee grants and course grants are based on income assessment and course of study. The grant program is for part-time students. A Fee Grant will pay directly to university, and it helps cover the cost of tuition fees. A Course Grant is paid directly to the student. The purpose of this grant is to help with the cost of textbooks, other course materials, and the cost of commuting. The maximum amounts available are contingent on individual circumstance as well as the rigorousness of the programme of study. The absolute maximum for the combined Fee Grant and Course Grant is £1,435 for the 2008/2009 terms.
• Allowances for Students with Disabilities: Any student with a medical condition that affects their ability to perform in an academic environment may be eligible. These allowances are not based on income. Types of allowances include: specialist equipment allowance (specialty furniture and/or electronics), non-medical helpers allowance (pays note-takers or library support specialists), and a general allowance (tapes, photocopying, etc.). These allowances have yearly caps, and students may be eligible for multiple. These allowances also are available to part-time as well as full-time students. Additionally, post-graduate students are eligible for a yearly stipend of £5,915.
Bursaries are available for full-time students, and they are a form of additional financial aid that comes directly from the institution of higher education. Bursaries are to be used to help finance the cost of living expenses. Bursaries are similar to grants because they do not need to be paid back, but they are a non-federal form of aid. To be eligible for a bursary, one typically needs to be eligible for a Maintenance or Special Support Grant. Also, those students eligible for Grants who attend a public university are required to receive additional aid in the form of a bursary. That being said, bursaries are financial aid based on yearly income.
• A number of different universities and colleges will offer bursaries greater than the minimum. For instance, in the 2007/2008-school term, the typical bursary award for a student receiving the Maintenance Grant was an additional £1,000. It is important to note that a larger bursary award is available for students who demonstrate substantial financial need.
Access to Learning Fund
The Access to Learning Fund is a special type of financial aid available to students who encounter unexpected financial hardship. To qualify, the university or college will examine your individual situation to determine whether or not you are eligible for funds. The funds that are distributed are typically not paid back, but are occasionally distributed as a loan. These funds are to be used to cover the cost of living not already covered by grants. These costs may include childcare, everyday living costs, or support during summer vacation if no other funds are available to the student. Also these funds can help students during a time of unexpected financial crises, such as unforeseen home repairs. This funding is also seen as a last resort for students contemplating leaving their programme due to financial difficulties.
• ALF: ALF is available to full-time undergraduate or post-graduate students, as well as part-time undergraduate and post-graduate students who have a course length of at least one year that takes no more than twice the amount of time to complete when compared to a full-time student. Students with disabilities may have more generous requirements in terms of determining completion time of coursework. This fund specifically targets: students with children (particularly lone-parents), returning students who may have existing financial commitments, low-income families, homeless students or students living in transitional housing, final year students, care leavers, and students with disabilities.
Regardless of financial situation, education on the types of financial aid available to those seeking higher education is an important resource to help ensure a successful university experience. Thankfully, there are a multitude of options for those students wishing to complete a university education. All students are encouraged to apply for as many loans, scholarships, and grants as are available because the most important part of a university education is having the time to study and learn.
Sources: Directgov, “The Official Government Website for Citizens,” copyright 2005, visited 09/02/08. http://www.direct.gov.uk