When Are You Allowed to Apply for Student Finance?

Student Maintenance Loans guide 2022

The Maintenance Loan will probably be your main source of cash while you’re at uni. But how does it all work? And how much money will you get? Allow us to explain

According to our National Student Money Survey, the Maintenance Loan is one of the main sources of money for students while they’re at uni.

So, as you will almost certainly be taking one out, will make sense for you to get clued up on the eligibility criteria, the application process and how big a Maintenance Loan you will have to get, as well as how you can pay it back and what to do if your loan isn’t enough.

What is a Maintenance Loan?
Maintenance Loans are a type of Student Loan that is provided by the government and is intended to help towards your living costs while you’re at university. E.g., Rent, bills, food, nights out – all these things and more are what the Maintenance Loan is there to help you with.

Although you apply for a Maintenance Loan through the same process as you would your Tuition Fee Loan and eventually make repayments on the two as a joint sum, the Maintenance Loan and the Tuition Fee Loan are technically two separate types of funding.

While we advise against students having to take on any debt to attend university, the current repayment terms on Student Loans can be manageable. As such, in most cases, we’d argue it’s better to take out both a Tuition Fee Loan and a Maintenance Loan, rather than one over the other (or neither).

How is the Maintenance Loan paid?
Maintenance Loans are paid straight into your student bank account in three almost equal instalments throughout the year – one at the beginning of each semester (other than Scotland, where loans are paid monthly). That means it’s down to you for you to budget your loan responsibly and make sure you don’t spend it all on your freshers’ week.

Students often ask why their third payment is as big as the others when you’ll likely be at home over the summer, but the answer is simple: you’re still a student, and some of you still have rent to pay during July and August.

And it’s thanks to that same logic that things change slightly in your final year. Your final Maintenance Loan payment is smaller than it would have been in previous years, as after June/July you’re no longer a student and therefore not entitled to a Student Loan.

Note that not all your Student Loan will be paid directly to you. Your Tuition Fee Loan will be paid straight to your university, and you’ll never see the money. That means you shouldn’t have to worry about your university chasing you down for your payment, and the temptation to spend the cash yourself.

Are you eligible for a Maintenance Loan?

Whether or not you’re eligible for a Maintenance Loan will depend on a few factors. We’ll run through each of the required criteria in a moment, but you shouldn’t worry – most undergraduates starting university are usually eligible to receive funding.

These are factors that can determine whether you qualify for a Maintenance Loan:

Your university/college and course
First, your university or college (or another type of institution) must be ”listed’ or ”recognised’ ‘. This is a lot less complicated than it really sounds, as in reality most universities and colleges are covered.

In addition, the course you’re enrolling on must fall within the (extensive) list of qualifying courses supplied by the government. Again, most undergraduate courses are recognised and eligible for funding, but there are some different criteria if you’ll be studying part-time.

Whether or not you’ve studied before
In principle, the only way you’ll be eligible to receive a Maintenance Loan is if this is the first higher education course that you’re enrolling on.

If you’ve previously started a course but had to drop out, you can be eligible to receive funding again. Similarly, if you’re resitting a year at the same institution, you may be eligible for a Maintenance Loan.

This is because, as a rule, all students are eligible for funding for the number of years of the course they’re applying for plus one extra year. So, if you’ve previously studied and are applying for a Maintenance Loan on a separate course, you’ll need to subtract the number of years you’ve previously studied from this figure to find out how long you’ll be eligible for.

For example, if you’re applying to study a three-year course, you’re theoretically entitled to four years of funding. But if you’ve already studied for two years on another course, you will have to subtract this and find that you are only eligible for two years of funding.

The exception to this rule is if you dropped out for “compelling personal reasons”, in certain cases you could be eligible for funding for all your course, regardless of how long you previously studied for. These reasons tend to be things like serious illness, rather than simply not liking the course you were on.

And, finally, even if you’ve already completed a degree, you can still be eligible for funding. Admittedly, this only applies to the minority of students (like those ‘topping up’ a qualification to a full Honours degree, or those studying one of a handful of courses, listed here), but there’s no harm in checking.

Your age
This one shouldn’t be an issue for most of you. The only age restrictions on Maintenance Loans come into play when you’re aged 60 or over, but even then, you could get some funding if you’re studying full-time.

Your nationality and residency status
Nationality and residency status is undoubtedly the murkiest of all the eligibility criteria, and it’s the one that tends to catch students out the most.

As a rule, you should be eligible to receive a Maintenance Loan if you’re a UK national (or have ‘settled status’), normally live in the UK (or the Channel Islands or Isle of Man) and have done so for the three years prior to the start of your course.

In some instances, you can be able to successfully appeal and receive a Maintenance Loan anyway – to do this, you will often need to prove that you’ve retained economic ties to the UK in your absence (e.g., one parent stayed and paid tax), or that one/both of your parents moved abroad for work.

There are also special exceptions made for specific groups, including refugees and stateless people.

In addition, some UK nationals living in the EU may still be eligible for funding for any courses beginning before 1st January 2028. More information is available on the government’s website.

As we said earlier, it’s best not to let these eligibility criteria confuse you too much.

We stand by our statement that the majority of students at the majority of universities will be eligible to receive a Maintenance Loan – especially if you’ve been studying at a school in the UK and will be attending a relatively well-known university.

But, as ever, if you’re unsure, it’s best to contact your funding body and ask them to clarify things for you.

How much Maintenance Loan will you get?
The size of the Maintenance Loan you’re entitled to will depend on the following three factors:

Where in the UK you’re from – Each country within the UK has its own funding body for students. You’ll apply to the body in the country you normally live in when you’re not at uni.
Whether you’ll be living at home or not – In most of the UK (apart from Scotland), there is more funding on offer for students who will be living away from home (rather than at home) while at uni. There is usually even more funding if you’ll be studying away from home and in London.
Your household income – Students from households with a higher income can receive less generous funding packages from Student Finance bodies, while those from less finically stable backgrounds receive the most generous support. Depending on where in the UK you are from, this could determine how big a Maintenance Loan you get and/or how big a Maintenance Grant you’re entitled to (if any).
It’s easiest to break things down by country, so you can scroll through to where you currently live to see how big a Maintenance Loan you can receive.

And remember: your Maintenance Loan is provided by the part of the UK you normally live in, not where you will be studying. So, for example, if you lived in Northern Ireland but planned to study in Scotland, you’d apply for funding from Student Finance Northern Ireland.

What is the average Maintenance Loan?
The average Maintenance Loan is approximately £5,640 a year, based on the calculations we made using data from our National Student Money Survey and information supplied by the Student Loans Company.

However, we’ve explained above, the amount you’ll receive isn’t really affected by what the ‘average’ student gets. Instead, the size of your Maintenance Loan will be determined by your household income that received, where you’ll be living while studying and, of course, where in the UK you usually live.

The household incomes in turn represents the upper earnings thresholds for the parents of students in each living situation. As the table shows, students with parents earning above the following thresholds will receive the minimum Maintenance Loan for someone with their current living arrangements:

£3,597 if you live at home and your household income is £58,253 or above
£4,524 if you live away from home and outside London, and your household income is £62,311 or above
£6,308 if you live away from home and in London, and your household income is £70,022 or above.
Bear in mind that household incomes we’ve given in the table above are just examples – the Maintenance Loan you receive will be calculated using your exact household income rather than a band (e.g., £42,345 instead of £40,000 – £45,000).

What are the minimum and maximum Maintenance Loans in England?

The minimum Maintenance Loan on offer for students from England is £3,597, which is paid to students with a household income of £58,253 or more and who’ll be living at home during their time at uni.

The maximum Maintenance Loan is £12,667 and is paid to students who will be living away from home and in London, and whose annual household income is £25,000 or less.

How to apply for a Maintenance Loan

Students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales can all apply for a Maintenance Loan online or by post. If you’re from Scotland, get ready to save the planet – there’s no postal option for you guys, so you’ll have to apply for your funding online.

That said, whether you apply online or by post, you may still need to send some supporting evidence in the mail (we’re talking passports, birth certificates and so on).

We’ve got a full guide to applying for Student Finance (including Maintenance Loans), but if you’re just after a link to your funding body, we’ve got you covered too. Just remember that you apply for funding from the part of the UK you ordinarily live in, not the part you’ll be studying in.

How to apply for a Current Year Income Assessment
When applying for Student Finance for the 2022/23 academic year, you’ll usually need to provide your household income from the 2020/21 tax year (6th April 2020 – 5th April 2021).

However, if you think your household income for the 2022/23 tax year (6th April 2022 – 5th April 2023) will be significantly lower than in the 2020/21 tax year, you can apply for what’s known as a Current Year Income Assessment. This will entitle you to larger Maintenance Loan payments throughout the entire academic year.

At the end of the 2022/23 tax year, you’ll need to submit further evidence to prove what your household actually was. If it was lower than anticipated, you may get some extra Maintenance Loan – but if it’s higher than your estimate, you may have to repay some straight away.

How do you repay your Maintenance Loan?
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 100 times: for all the many flaws in the Student Finance system, the terms for repaying Maintenance Loans (and Student Loans in general) are actually pretty generous.

You’ll make repayments towards your Maintenance Loan and Tuition Fee Loan together as one Student Loan, so when we discuss the repayment terms of Maintenance Loans, just know it applies across the board.

We’ve got a guide to Student Loan repayments that explains things in a lot more detail, but for now, we’ll just answer a few of the most common questions students have about repaying Maintenance Loans.

What is the interest rate on Maintenance Loans?
For students from England and Wales, the interest rate on Maintenance Loans is currently anything up to 4.5%. If you’re still at uni, interest will be charged at the full 4.5%, but if you’ve graduated, interest will be charged between 1.5% and 4.5% depending on how much you’re earning.

For students from Northern Ireland and Scotland, the interest rate on Maintenance Loans is currently 1.5%. Simple as that!

When is your Maintenance Loan debt cancelled?
A big selling point of the repayment terms for Maintenance Loans is that no matter how much or how little you’ve paid back, the balance is always cancelled after 30 or so years.

If you’re from England, Scotland or Wales, your loan will be written off 30 years after you first became eligible to repay (the April after you graduated), while Northern Irish students will have their loans cancelled after 25 years.

No matter where you’re from, your loan will also be written off if you have to claim a disability-related benefit and can no longer work (or if you die).

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