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How to finance yourself as a mature student
While the term ‘mature student’ can conjure up the image of a silver haired retiree sitting in a classroom surrounded by twenty year olds, the reality could not be more different.
With ‘mature student’ actually referring to anyone entering further education over the age of 25, and more and more people keen to retain their competitiveness in the job market by adding to their qualifications, the question of how to finance yourself as a mature student is all that prevents many from embarking on a vocational course, undertaking a degree they didn’t attempt after school or pursuing a Masters level or higher qualification after several – or sometimes many – years in employment.
So whatever your motivation or reasoning, let’s take a look at the main options for financing yourself as a mature student.
Research the student loans and government funding available.
There is a wide range of student loans and government funding available if you want to start or add to further education a little later in life.
If you’re in this position, it’s vital you begin by doing some research to see what’s available. This HM Government page <https://studentfinance.campaign.gov.uk> covers just about all the government-backed options, including full-time and part-time undergraduate study and postgraduate Master’s and Doctoral study.
If you’re thinking about how to finance a Master’s, you may also find UCAS’s Postgraduate Master’s Loan page <https://www.ucas.com/student-finance-england/postgraduate-masters-loan> helpful.
There are various specialised loans to read up on, too.
- Tuition Fee Loan <https://www.ucas.com/finance/student-finance-england/tuition-fee-loans-full-time-students> – Full Time & Part Time Students
This is the most common ‘student loan’, and it’s available to you at any age. It’s paid directly to your university or college and covers the cost of tuition fees. Tuition Fee Loans are usually available for the duration of your course plus an extra year in case you need to drop out and return later. You must repay the loan, of course, but not until you’ve finished or left the course, and your income is over the repayment threshold level.
- Maintenance Loan <https://www.savethestudent.org/student-finance/maintenance-loans.html> – Full Time Students only
This is a repayable loan, eligibility for which is base don your household income, It covers day to day expenses and is paid directly into your bank account. Again, it’s a loan and must be repaid, but not until your income is over the repayment thresholdlevel.
- Long Course Loan <https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/student-finance/loans/long-course-loa> – Full Time Students only
This is a supplement to the Maintenance Loan – so you must qualify for that first – but it is then available to you if your course lasts for more than 30 weeks and 3 days in a year.
- Dependants’ Grant <https://www.ucas.com/finance/student-finance-england/dependants-grants-full-time-students> – Full Time students only
There are three types of Dependants’ Grant (Childcare Grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance, or Adult Dependants’ Grant.) They are available if you have children or an adult dependent, and you want to study a full-time undergraduate course or an Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programme. Check to see whether any of these you could be open to you.
- Disabled Students’ Allowance <https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowance-dsa> All qualifying Undergraduate & Postgraduate Students
DSA is support to cover the study-related costs you may have if you suffer from a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability. A DSA can be awarded on its own or in addition to any other student finance. Importantly, DSA once awarded, which involves assessment of needs, does not have to be repaid.
Balance your studies with a part-time job.
Undertaking a course as a mature student doesn’t necessarily involve all study and no work, of course. Depending on the level of the course you plan to follow, and its classroom and extra-classroom demands, you may be able to strike a balance between studying and working.
If you currently have a part time job, then this may come down simply to some juggling of working hours or shifts with the demands of your studies. Most employers are disposed to encourage employees in their efforts to study (as even if the subject bears no relation to the field of the job, the benefits of mental application and even determination are likely to improve performance in work). Speak to your employer, explain what you are hoping to do and see whether you would in principle be able to adapt your working hours to accommodate the time you’ll need to study. If you can find a way to make this work, there should be no real impact on your income.
If you are in full time employment, but would like to switch down to part-time, so as to be able to study, consider whether talking to your employer about dropping down to a few days a week might work for them, as well as being helpful to you. Naturally, you’ll be forfeiting some income as you work less hours, and you’ll need to allow for this in financing your studies. If your employer sees no possibility of you switching to part time work, then you may need to give notice and look elsewhere for an organisation whose employment needs offer the flexibility you’re looking for.
Lastly, if you do not currently have a job (or are out of work but looking), start applying, and don’t forget to mention to employers when applying that you are planning on part time study and want to work as a way of financing yourself through this. It’s a situation most employers will respect and it actually says a lot about your determination and commitment to improving your own future
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