Studying as a single parent is no mean feat, but many single mums and dads take on the challenge successfully. Read about Naomi,
who completed a teaching qualification while working and raising her son, and Janine
a single mum of three who combined studying and family life.
If you’re thinking about going to college or university there are lots of things to plan, as well as the major decision about what to study
. Some key things to consider are:
- Finances – how to pay for course fees and living costs
- Benefits and tax credits while studying
- Work – leaving work or reducing your working hours to make time to study
- Childcare – exploring your options and funding for childcare.
For detailed advice on your individual circumstances, including checking your benefits and tax credits, call our helpline. Calls are free.
Finances, fees and living costs
The financial decisions you make will depend on what type of course you’ll be studying. Pick the scenario that applies to you for more information.
Some further education courses are free and others charge fees. Many colleges offer reduced fees to certain groups of students. Working out whether you have to pay fees or whether you will qualify for financial support to pay for your course can be complicated. You should contact the college you’re interested in for information on their fees and payments schemes.
Reduced fees for under 23s
If you’re under 23 many courses are free of charge, depending on the level of qualifications you already have, and the level of the course you want to take. See our factsheet for more information.
Reduced fees if you receive benefits
If you’re 24 or over and claiming certain benefits, some level one or two courses are free. For more information about fees and reductions for level one and two courses see our further education factsheet. Always check the details with your college.
Colleges also have grants and bursary funds to help with fees and living costs. Check with your college to see what financial support they offer and how to apply. Read our factsheet on money for further education students for details on course fees and how to finance your studies.
Loans for studying
If you are not eligible for a free course, you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan. The Advanced Learner Loan covers courses that are level three or higher.This type of student loan has low repayments that only start once you’re earning above a certain amount (currently £21,000 a year). If you’re taking out the loan to fund an access course the entire loan can be written off if you study for a degree afterwards. Find out more here.
For most degree courses you will have to pay fees, usually by taking out a student loan or using any savings you may have. Student Finance England provides loans for fees and living costs - find out what support you’re eligible for.
You can also use this quick guide to start planning your finances. Student Finance Wales has information and advice for Welsh students.
There are grants and bursaries which can cover part or all of the costs of some courses, for example teaching and social work degrees. Information on grants and funding is also available if you are interested in training as a health professional.
Help with living costs
You can also apply for grants and benefits to help with living costs during your studies. There is a range of grants and bursaries for extra financial help including a parent learning allowance. For detailed information about how to fund your course fees and living costs with student loans, financial support schemes, bursaries and grants see our factsheet on money for higher education students.
Benefits and tax credits
You can sometimes claim benefits while studying. When and what you can claim will depend on what type of course you’re studying. Choose the scenario that applies to you for more information.
Further education and benefits
If you need to claim benefits or tax credits for the first time (or after a period of not claiming benefits) find out what types of benefits are available to you. Use the Turn2Us calculator to work out what benefits you could apply for and how much you would get.
For more detailed information see our factsheets on:
To find out about what tax credits you can claim see the gov.uk tax credits page.
Make sure you know about any restrictions that apply to the number of hours that you can spend studying while claiming certain benefits - see our factsheet on money for further education students for more.
Universal credit is a new benefit that is being introduced in certain areas of the UK. If you live in one of the areas where it applies please call our helpline for more advice.
If you’re already claiming benefits it’s important to check the rules on how many hours per week you can spend studying as there are limits. The rules depend on which benefit you’re claiming. See our factsheet on money for further education students for more information.
If you’re claiming jobseeker’s allowance or employment and support allowance in the work related activity group you will need to contact your jobcentre plus work coach when you become a student to make sure that your studies do not stop you from complying with your claimant commitment
If you’re receiving universal credit please call our helpline for advice on how starting a course may affect your benefits.
If you’re working and have reduced your hours or stopped work, you will need to report this change to HMRC as your tax credits entitlements may change. See our factsheet on tax credits when your circumstances change for more information.
Higher education and benefits
You can claim benefits while in higher education. The amount you receive will be affected by how much you receive from Student Finance, grants or other support funds. There are rules that apply to the way your benefit is calculated. For detailed information see our factsheet on money for higher education students. Select the scenario below that applies to you for more information.
If you’re already claiming benefits it is important to check the rules on how many hours per week you can study while claiming certain benefits, and how benefits are affected by student income. The rules vary for different types of benefits. Find the rules that apply to you and work out your options using our factsheet on money for higher education students.
If you’re claiming jobseekers allowance or employment and support allowance in the work related activity group you will need to let Jobcentre plus know that you will be studying so you can check that you can keep meeting the requirements of your claimant commitment while attending your course.
If you’re receiving universal credit please call our helpline for advice on how starting a course may affect your benefit.
If you’re working and have reduced your hours or stopped work, you will need to report this change to HMRC as your tax credits entitlements may change. Don’t forget to read our factsheet on tax credits if your circumstances change.
Depending on what type of course you will be doing, and how much of your time will be taken up with your studies; you may decide to reduce your working hours. You might even decide to leave your job completely. Check our interactive advice on changing your hours, job or pay and see our online guide about leaving work.
If you’re currently receiving tax credits and leave your job or reduce your hours, the amount of tax credits you receive will probably change. See our factsheet on tax credits when your circumstances change for more information on what to do and when.
If you don’t currently receive tax credits, and are reducing your working hours or leaving your job, you may be able to start claiming them when you start your course. Find out how to make a claim.
Don’t forget to check whether you’ll be entitled to benefits once you reduce your hours or leave work. Use this online calculator to work out if you can claim benefits for the first time, or if an existing claim will change when your work pattern changes.
If you haven’t used childcare regularly before see our interactive guide to find out about providers and costs, as well as tax credits and other funding.
There are several schemes that offer financial support for childcare while you study at a further education college. Discretionary learner support, is available directly through your college to pay for childcare while you study. There is also a care-to-learn childcare scheme for those aged under 20.
For more information about funding schemes and grants for childcare available to further education students, see our factsheets on money for further education.
If you’re thinking of studying at a university there are childcare schemes and support available including the childcare grant. For more information see our factsheet on money for higher education.
Interested in talking to other single parents about studying or training? Visit our forum and sign up for free membership today.
Page updated 21/06/2016