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Understanding living costs while studying at university or college

Students studying at university or college can have different living costs depending on where and what they will be studying, their lifestyle and any financial commitments they might have.

Discover Uni offer guidance on other things to consider that may help cover some of your living costs, including tips on budgeting. Why not check out their budget calculators to find out what your living costs at university or college might add up to?

If you’re unsure about what additional costs may be involved as a result of your studies, you should ask your university or college for more information. Examples could include:

  • accommodation costs – such as rent

  • travel

  • course materials

  • food and drink

  • utilities – such as gas and electricity bills

What you could get as a minimum

Student Finance England (SFE) provide a Maintenance Loan to help you with your living costs. All eligible students qualify for a non-income assessed minimum amount of Maintenance Loan to help with these costs. The minimum amount you can get is:

Living arrangements Minimum Maintenance Loan
Living at home £3,516
Living away from home, outside London £4,422
Living away from home, in London £6,166

Most students can get a higher amount of Maintenance Loan by providing details of their household income.

What you could get as a maximum

If you apply for student finance based on your household income then you may be entitled to even more Maintenance Loan to help with your living costs.

For example, full-time undergraduate students with a household income of £25,000 or less would get the maximum additional Maintenance Loan. Students with a household income above £25,000 would get a lower amount of loan based on their household income.

The tables below show some examples of what the difference is between the maximum Maintenance Loan and the amount you could get based on your household income.

Student living at home

Household Income Maximum Maintenance Loan Amount available to you Difference from maximum
£25,000 £7,987 £7,987 £0
£35,000 £7,987 £6,642 £1,345
£45,000 £7,987 £5,296 £2,691
£55,000 £7,987 £3,950 £4,037
£65,000 £7,987 £3,516 (only eligible for minimum amount) £4,471
£75,000 £7,987 £3,516 (only eligible for minimum amount) £4,471

Student living away from home, outside London

Household Income Maximum Maintenance Loan Amount available to you Difference from maximum
£25,000 £9,488 £9,488 £0
£35,000 £9,488 £8,130 £1,358
£45,000 £9,488 £6,771 £2,717
£55,000 £9,488 £5,412 £4,076
£65,000 £9,488 £4,422 (only eligible for minimum amount) £5,066
£75,000 £9,488 £4,422 (only eligible for minimum amount) £5,066

There are different rates for students living in London and for other circumstances such as other students living in your household, or if you receive benefits. Use the student finance calculator to get an estimate on the amount of Maintenance Loan available to you based on your specific circumstances.

For some students even the maximum amount of Maintenance Loan may not be enough to cover all their living costs.

Making up the difference

Students are expected to make up the difference between the Maintenance Loan amount available to them and their total living costs.

Financial support may be provided by the student’s parents or partner. But there are several other sources of funding available for students who don’t have access to household support, or for students who need more funding because even the maximum Maintenance Loan available isn’t enough. These could be:

  • part-time employment

  • savings

  • university bursaries and scholarships

  • Local Authority support such as the Higher Education Bursary

You can find more information about some of the alternative sources of funding, and guidance on how to budget for university, at Discover Uni.

Example

Olivia is going to be studying at Newcastle University and will be living in student accommodation. She automatically qualifies for £4,422 minimum Maintenance Loan but decides to ask her parents to provide their income details to see if she can get more funding.

Her total household income is £35,000 which means she will qualify for an additional £3,708 of Maintenance Loan, making a total loan of £8,130.

However, she has estimated that she will need around £12,000 to cover her accommodation and living costs which means she will need to find an additional £3,870 to cover all her living costs.

To make up the difference, Olivia will ask her parents for financial support and look for part-time work.

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