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Student finances: Planning for the ‘new normal’

Lucy Miller 29th Jun 2020 One Comment

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There’s no question that the past few years have been difficult for students. Lectures cancelled in 2020. Exams moved online. No real clarity about what’s going to happen. Clearly, thousands of students across the country are finding themselves in flux. And when student finances are thrown into the mix, things can get even more confusing. 

It’s very likely that you’re worrying about money – whether that’s paying rent for somewhere you’re not living, the pub or restaurant where you work being closed indefinitely, or even your parents’ no longer being able to support you due to their own financial situation. 

In this article, we’ve identified a few things that you could look into to make life easier if you’re worried about the next academic year…

Look at maintenance loans if your parents’ income has dropped

Changes in parental income means changes to student finances and options

Have your parents had an income dip during the Covid-19  crisis? If yes, you might now be entitled to extra support that you couldn’t access before. As a continuing full-time student, you could be entitled to a grant of up to £9250 for the coming year. It’s definitely worth looking into this option if your parents’ income has suffered recently. 

You can work out how much you’re eligible for, and access other information, for example if you’re a part-time student, on the student maintenance loan section of Gov.uk. You can apply for your maintenance loan via the site, too. 

Break clauses in accommodation 

If your university decides to go online instead of holding in-person lectures next year (as Cambridge has already said it will) you might decide to stay at home instead of moving back after the summer. If that’s the case, you’re likely to find yourself paying rent for accommodation that you’re unlikely to be living in. It’s not an ideal situation, and it’s one that many have already flagged as unfair. A MoneyMagpie survey, conducted with SavetheStudent.co.uk, has found that 89% of students and parents think a break clause should be added to uni accommodation ahead of the coming year. 

There may be a break clause in your contract, so check for this first. If there isn’t an existing break clause, speak to your landlord or estate agent about ways that they may be able to help you. A rent reduction or a change so you’re not paying for weekends could help. If you can’t get out of your contract, ask that a break clause is added, in case there is a second lockdown later in the year. And don’t take no for an answer! 

Consider transferring your course to an online university

Hear us out. If you’re not particularly tied to the prestige of your university and / or they’ve decided to move all their learning online, it might be a good idea to look into transferring to an online university instead. The Open University, for example, is well-respected and has fees that are around £6000 less than most traditional institutions. This could help you save money on rent, too. If you’re studying online and can live at home instead of in halls or a student house, you’ll save hundreds on accommodation aside from your tuition fees. 

If you want to fully immerse yourself in study rather than leaning on the social aspect of uni, online learning could be a great money saver. It could allow you more flexibility around a job, too – so it’s definitely something to consider. 

Think about deferring a year

Defer a year to save for student finances impact

Maybe this has crossed your mind already – especially if you’re supposed to be starting university this year. There’s no escaping the fact that university is a life-changing social experience for a lot of people. Often, that can’t be replicated by attending online lecturers whilst living at home. In addition, a lot of the reason people go to university is for the social life – which will be seriously impacted by ongoing social distancing measures even when things reopen.

If you want the social element of uni, you might want to consider deferring your course for a year to see if things are a bit more normal in 12 months’ time. It might seem like a drastic option, but it isn’t really. In a few years time you might be incredibly grateful that you made this decision. 

If you do decide to defer, you could spend the year tutoring A-level or GCSE students in the subjects that you’ve just taken, or earning money through any number of online (or IRL, coronavirus permitting) jobs. You’ll end up leaving for uni with some extra money in your pocket, too. Think of it as an unexpected gap year! 

Look for online jobs now 

Even if you go to university as planned this autumn and attend lectures and seminars in person, there might not be enough student jobs to go around. Venues might have closed for good or have limited opening hours, or they might take on fewer staff members if social distancing is still in place. This is especially true in hospitality, where the majority of student jobs are traditionally. 

It’s a good idea to find some work that you know you’ll be able to do online, whatever the situation is in a few months’ time. As mentioned, online tutoring is always a good option. This is especially true if home-schooling is still a thing next year. 

Think outside the box too, though. What are you good at, outside academics? Pitching yourself as a freelance writer, social media exec or virtual assistant could be a great way to guarantee yourself some income whilst studying. Young people are always in demand for roles like these. Make sure you identify businesses or organisations that might have a need, and strike whilst the iron is hot! 

Have you got any great ideas for preparing for “the new normal” as a new or continuing university student? We’d love to hear your thoughts – let us know over on the forums.

More tips for students

Student finances are always a concern, but even more so now. Read these next for ways to make cash as a student and manage your money.

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3 years ago

Finance for education can be a confusing area. Appreciate the info.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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