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Higher education is usually considered to be courses above level three. It includes foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, National Health Service courses, Higher National Diplomas, teacher training and other professional courses. Usually, courses take place at a university or adult education college.
If your course is at level three or below, such as A-levels, GCSEs or NVQs, it is considered to be further education. If you are unsure whether the course you intend to study is considered further or higher education, contact your course provider.
For more information see our factsheet on money for further education
This is the name given to grants and loans available to help towards your living costs and other expenses while you are in higher education.
As a single parent you are classed as an independent student. This means that if you live with your parents, their income isn’t taken into consideration when working out your student finance.
Most of your income is ignored when calculating your entitlement to student finance. -Income from work isn’t taken into account and most single parents will qualify for the highest levels of support, unless you or your children have other sources of income.
Most students apply to Student Finance England or Wales. If you’re taking a course in health care or social work you may also need to apply elsewhere – see page four.
You can apply online. To make sure you get your money in time for the start of the course, you should apply several months before your course starts. You don’t need to wait until your place is confirmed. For new students the deadline for the application is the May before your course starts. You can make a late application, but it will probably mean your payments will be delayed.
Your application should be processed within six weeks. Most types of student finance are paid in three instalments, at the beginning of each term.
Some funding for students will be different depending on whether you come from England or Wales. This factsheet will state whether the funding is for English or Welsh students or both.
A Welsh student is someone who normally lives in Wales but is studying anywhere in the UK.
Some types of student finance are grants, which don’t have to be repaid. However, the main types of student finance are loans, which are repayable.
If you’re a full-time student and started your course in September 2012 or later, you will start repaying your loan once you have finished the course and are earning over £21,000 a year.
Part-time students who have been studying for three years will start paying back the loan if they start earning over £21,000 while they are studying.
Organisation: Student Finance England
Details: Information about student support in England. Use the website to calculate the amount of support you may be entitled to, apply online and monitor your application.
Phone: 0845 300 5090
Student loan for fees (England and Wales)
You aren’t expected to pay any of your fees upfront if you qualify for a tuition fee loan. The loan is paid directly to the university or college. In England the maximum loan is for £9,000.
Welsh students can get a tuition fee loan of up to £3,900. If the fees are higher than this you can get a fee grant of up to £5,100 to cover the shortfall, which doesn’t have to be repaid.
Two or more children
One-off payment specialist equipment (for whole course)
up to £5,212 (England)
Non-medical personal helper’s allowance (a year)
up to £20,725 (England)
Other disability-related expenses (a year) (maximum)
up to £1,741 (England)
The course fees are £9,000 a year. She expects her childcare costs to be about £170 a week.
Her income from part-time work will be about £3,000 in the 2016/17 academic year. She will receive the maximum amount of student finance.
Student loan for tuition fees
(paid directly to university or college) £9,000
Student finance amount received
for academic year 2016/17
(paid to Soraya directly in termly instalments)
Student loan for maintenance £5,878
Student loan: special support element £3,469
Parents’ learning allowance £1,573
£144.50 per week x 52 weeks £7,514
(85 per cent of costs paid)
Soraya can apply to her university’s own hardship fund if she needs further help. She may also be eligible for benefits such as housing benefit and child tax credit, especially during the university holidays.
Organisation: Care Council Wales
Details: Provides information on financial support available to social work students in Wales.
Phone: 029 2022 6257
Organisation: National Health Service Business Services Authority
Details: Administers the NHS bursary scheme and social work bursary scheme. Information about the scheme including how to apply.
Phone: 0845 358 6655 (NHS bursaries), 0845 610 1122 (social work bursaries)
Organisation: Training and Development Agency for Schools
Details: Advice and information about becoming a teacher and financial support available.
Phone: 0800 389 2500, 0800 085 0971 (Welsh speaking)
You can combine benefits and student finance in order to support yourself financially during your studies. It’s important to note that you cannot choose to claim benefits instead of applying for student finance if you are entitled to it. If you don’t apply for student finance, you are treated as receiving it when your entitlement to benefits is calculated. You must tell the offices that pay your benefits and tax credits that you are a student and about the changes to your income.
Certain types of student finance are counted as income when calculating your entitlement to income support, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. The list below covers the main types of student finance that will reduce your benefit entitlement. To calculate the correct amount specific to your situation, you will need to seek further advice. You can call our helpline on 0808 802 0925 for more help with this.
● The maximum amount of maintenance loan you are entitled to (even if you do not apply for it), less:
– The amount of the loan that is for books and equipment
– A fixed amount for travel costs
– £10 a week general disregard.
● Any part of a professional and career development loan that is for your living costs. If you receive lump sum payments from the access to learning funds (England) or financial contingency funds (Wales) for day-to-day living costs, it is treated as savings rather than income. If the amount you receive is for course-related costs, it is ignored completely
● NHS bursaries
● Teacher training bursaries.
Single parents with a child below the age of five can claim income support, but your student finance income may mean that you can only receive income support during the summer break (as your loan is spread over term-time, i.e. September to June). An important exception to this is if you are receiving support for mortgage interest payments as part of your income support claim. If this is the case you should get advice as you may continue to receive help with your mortgage interest payments during term-time.
You may also qualify for income support if you cannot get student finance, for example, if it is your second degree or a postgraduate qualification.
You cannot claim jobseeker’s allowance if you are a full-time student, other than exceptions for the summer holidays (see below).
If your course is partly or fully paid for by certain government funds and you have more than 16 hours guided learning hours a week (eg lectures or workshops), you are treated as in full-time education. This does not include time you spend studying on your own. Check your learning agreement with your provider if you are not sure.
If your course is not partly or fully paid for by certain government funds, you will usually be treated as in full-time education if your college or education provider defines the course as full-time.
If you take a part-time course, you may be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance. You must continue to look for work and be available for work. You will only be treated as available for work by jobcentre plus if:
- You are able to show that the course does not affect the hours you have agreed you are available for work, or
- You are willing and able to give up your course if a suitable job becomes available.
During the summer break, the student loan for living costs is not normally counted as income. If your child is under the age of five or you are a full-time carer for someone with a disability, you may be able to claim income support during these months.
If your children are not young enough for you to claim income support you can claim jobseeker’s allowance. This is the same amount as income support, but you must be able to meet the work-seeking conditions.
There are special rules for single parents claiming jobseeker’s allowance and looking for work. See our factsheets Claiming jobseeker’s allowance and Jobseeker’s allowance: special rules for single parents for more information.
If you claim benefits during term time, tell Jobcentre Plus about your change in circumstances and ask that benefits are re-calculated in the holidays.
You cannot claim carer’s allowance if you are in full-time education of 21 hours or more a week. This includes individual study time as well as attending classes or lectures.
If you are a part time student you should check with your college to find out how many hours per week your course requires in study and attendance time. If it is less than 21 hours per week you will be able to continue claiming carer’s allowance.
Apart from the adult dependants’ grant, student support is not taken into account when calculating tax credits. Unless you have other income you should get the maximum amount of child tax credit. If you study and work, you have to work 16 hours a week or more to get working tax credit. If you receive the childcare element of working tax credit, you cannot get a childcare grant as well.
Full-time students do not usually have to pay council tax. You will need to inform your local council that you are a student and claim the exemption.
You can apply to your local authority’s council tax reduction scheme if you are a part-time student and claiming benefits or on a low income. The scheme allows residents on low incomes to pay a smaller proportion of their council tax bill. The reduction varies from area to area so you will need to contact your council to get the correct figure.
If you rent your home and have a low income you can claim housing benefit while you study. Your income and capital will be taken into account. See page six for details of student income that is taken into account. You are likely to receive a higher amount outside of term time as your student loan for living costs is not taken into account then.
Universal credit is a new benefit system that will replace many of the current benefits and tax credits. A small number of single parents can claim universal credit in selected jobcentres. For more information on universal credit and how it may affect your family you can visit our universal credit webpage. The rules about universal credit for single parents who are studying are different from other benefits. Call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline for advice if you are claiming universal credit.
Organisation: Jobcentre Plus
Details: To claim welfare benefits including jobseekers allowance and employment and support allowance.
Phone: Telephone: 0800 055 6688 - claim line ; 0800 012 1888 - Claim line Welsh language
Organisation: Disability Rights UK
Details: Runs the former Skill
helpline providing information and advice for disabled students.
Phone: 0800 328 5050 (Disabled Students Helpline)
Organisation: Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline
Details: Free information on a range of issues including maintenance, benefits, tax credits, debt, employment, education, legal rights and holidays. Open Mondays 10am to 6pm, Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 10am to 4pm and Wednesdays 10am-1pm and 5pm to 7pm
Phone: Freephone 0808 802 0925
Organisation: National Union of Students (NUS)
Details: Offers information on a range of issues such as money, housing and health.
Phone: 0845 5210 262 (England) 02920 435 390 (Wales)
Organisation: One Parent Families Scotland Lone Parent Helpline
Details: Run by our partner organisation, the Lone Parent Helpline provides confidential advice and information for single parents in Scotland.
Phone: 0808 801 0323
Prospects for graduate jobs, postgraduate study, advice about work experience, internship opportunities and graduate careers
Organisation: Student Finance Wales
Details: For information about the education maintenance allowance and the Welsh Assembly learning grant.
Phone: 0845 602 8845
Organisation: The Department for Education
Details: Advice and information about becoming a teacher and financial support available.
Phone: 0800 389 2500 (Teaching Information Line)
Organisation: UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs)
Details: Independent advice for students from overseas on a range of issues, including fees and Student Support.
Phone: 0207 788 9214
This factsheet covers the main types of financial support available to single parents who are starting higher education from September 2016.
If your course started before September 2016 or if you want more advice, call our helpline on 0808 802 0925. Calls are free.
Note: If you have recently come to the United Kingdom, have limited right to be here, or are from the European Union, you should get advice before applying for student finance or claiming benefits. See page six for organisations that can help.
Money for higher education students
Read our step by step guide for single parents on returning to education. We cover all the things you will need to consider, and provide some real life examples of single parents and how they completed their studies.
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