As the new academic year gets underway, parents of undergraduates are learning along with their offspring, the true cost of university education. As many have found, the pain can be eye-watering so if you have teenage children, now is the time to understand the costs involved and start planning your finances.

How much will university cost?  

There’s no sugar-coating on this one – it’s expensive! You need to view university education as a long-term investment in your child’s future. It is estimated that a three-year uni course can cost up to £60,000. The total bill is not met by parents however and there are savings to be made if you choose the course, university and accommodation carefully to get the best value for money.

There are three main areas of expense in sending a child to university:

  1. Course fees – most universities charge the maximum amount of £9,250 per year to cover teaching your child in their chosen degree subject, attending the university, and use of study facilities. This is paid directly to the institution and the student repays the amount after they graduate and are earning over £21,000 per year.
  2. Living costs – this can be the biggest outlay for students although most first-year students are offered accommodation in halls of residence which is less expensive and can sometimes include catering. Means-tested maintenance loans are available to cover living costs but parents need to make up the shortfall, based on your household income.
  3. Course costs – textbooks and materials aren’t covered by the tuition fees. Extra equipment varies depending on the course and may also include field trips away.

Is there any financial help available?

There is some financial support available which doesn’t have to be paid back:

  • Bursaries, scholarships, and awards – universities offer additional funding to certain groups such as those from a lower-income background, care leavers or disabled students.

Some universities may offer a reduction in tuition fees or a free year on some courses and others may offer a bursary which is a non-repayable grant. Each university varies so you’ll need to check with your child on their possible eligibility. Most universities offer money to the highest academic achievers, to encourage their application, a good extra incentive for hard work during their A-Levels.

What can we do to prepare?

It’s important that you talk with your child about the financial implications of university education and how the loan system works. Both you and your child can start saving in advance, especially for the first few months as this can be the most expensive time.

This is a good time to re-examine your finances. Cutting costs on your utility bills, mortgage, and other financial products could free up money for the ‘university fund’. Encourage your child to tighten their belt on expenditure to be able to put some money away for their future too.

Investigate the best student bank accounts and talk seriously about budgeting, it may be the first time that your child will need to do this in earnest. Help them work out what the major expenses will be at uni, what you can afford to contribute along with any other maintenance loans or wages from a part-time job, then prepare a budget of how much they can afford to spend each week.

Everything is new for both your child and you at this stage of their life, so being the most prepared you can be will help you through the next few years of financial discomfort. CRM can help with advice and more tips to prepare and get the best from your finances – and they’ll even have a tissue on hand for emotional support if needed! Get in touch on 01865 379272.

Sage Accountant Partner Logoiris kashflowFreeagent