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Don't believe the hype – you too can afford to get a degree

12 October 2011 

Put off going to university by increased tuition fees? Worried about how you are going to find the money? Don’t understand what’s going on with student loans? Well before you do something you could regret for the rest of your life, do what any good lawyer would do – Check the Facts.

Here are our Top 10 Facts about money and university in 2012. (Cue cheesy chart countdown music…..)

Fact 1

You only start repaying your student loan after you start earning.

This one is so important I’ll say it again.

You only start repaying your student loan after you start earning.

If you borrow from the Student Loan Company you do not have to repay a penny until you start earning over £21000 per year. (See Fact 7).

And while we are on the subject of jobs, did you know that according to a survey carried out by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit a couple of years ago, the rate of unemployment six months after graduation among graduates with a first degree in law was just 6.2%! That was the lowest rate in the survey and just goes to show how employers (not just lawyers) value a law degree!

Fact 2

Tuition fees are going up a lot for English students.

Universities will be able to charge up to a maximum of £9,000 per year for tuition. That’s an increase of almost £6,000 per year and all the signs are that just about every university in England worth its salt – and certainly the best known ones – will charge the full £9,000 or something very close to that. But, as I said in Fact 1 (altogether now!), - you only start repaying your student loan after you start earning.

But watch this space! The government is putting together some proposals which will allow universities to compete for extra students provided they charge less than the full whack. Already a number of universities which said they were going to charge £9,000 have asked if they can change this to a lower fee.

Fact 3

Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students could pay less if they study in their home country.

Check out the websites of each of the devolved assemblies for full details of charges in these three countries.

Fact 4
Most law degrees cost £27,000 in tuition fees alone.
At the moment almost all law degrees are three years long. This means you will have to fork out £27,000 in tuition fees alone. On top of this you need to add your accommodation, food, books, going out etc etc. Depending on where you study this is likely to add up to a further £20,000 to your bill. Compare this with The College of Law’s year law degree which takes just two years and which is offered in three locations making it easier for you to choose to live at home while you study.
Recent figures show there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of students who choose their local university and live at home with their parents. Last year around 310,000 students (that’s about 19% of the total undergraduate student population) opted to live at home while they were studying.

Fact 5

Student loans are available to cover your tuition fees.

You will be able to borrow up to £9,000 a year from the Student Loan Company to cover your tuition fees. If you go to a private institution like Buckingham University or The College of Law, then the maximum you can borrow for tuition is £6,000.  You can make up the difference by borrowing from the bank, getting a job and saving before you go to uni, or getting help from your family.

Wherever you study you will be able to get a maintenance loan to cover your living costs. Unlike the student loan which goes directly to the place you study, your maintenance grant is paid to you. So you will need to get yourself a bank account (if you haven’t already got one) and think carefully about how you are going to use it to cover all your costs.

Fact 6

Some students can get a Maintenance Grant.

Students from poorer backgrounds will be eligible for a Maintenance Grant to help with living costs.

To get this, your parents’ or household income will have to be low - less than £25,000 to get a full Maintenance Grant of £3,250. Above this the amount you get depends on how much your household income is. The higher it is the smaller the grant and there is a cut-off point at £42,600.

And of course, you don’t have to pay back a grant

Fact 7

Part or all of your loan could get written off.

(…but only after 30 years.)

Earn less than £21,000 a year and after 30 years your debt is written off! And if you haven’t managed to repay the full amount of your loan within 30 years then whatever is left will be written off.  Nobody knows how many loans will have to be written off but some estimates have suggested it could be as many as 1 in 3.

Fact 8

Most lawyers earn more than £21,000 per year.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is you get a good standard of living. The bad news is there is virtually no chance that all your debt will be written of when you hit your 50’s and only a small chance that you won’t earn enough to pay the whole lot back.

However you only have to pay back at the rate of 9% of what you earn over £21,000.

So if, for example, your first job as a trainee solicitor pays you £25,000 a year, you earn £4,000 more than £21,000 so you will pay 9% of £4,000. That is equivalent to £30 per month.

Obviously the more you earn, the more you pay. (In fact the money will be deducted straight out of your paypacket.). Have a look at the website. This has a brilliant instant calculator to help you work out how much you will have to pay back.

Fact 9

Studying at The College of Law could save you at least £15,000.

It’s a two year accelerated degree. So although you do exactly the same amount of work as other universities which take three years, you save £9,000 in tuition fees and around another £6,000 in living expenses (more in cities like London).

Speculation 10

More private companies will sponsor students through university. OK so we cheated and only had 9 facts but a little bit of crystal-ball gazing is good for the soul…

There are early signs that some businesses will respond to the increase in tuition fees by getting more involved in helping to fund students through university as long as they promise to work for them.
Already the accountancy firm KPMG is funding up to 100 students to study Accounting at Durham or Exeter University. Meanwhile supermarket giant Morrisons recently announced that it will fund up to a 1,000 young people to do a Foundation Degree in Retail Management at Bradford University.

The possibility is that as such arrangements proliferate, there will be increasing pressure on companies of all kinds – including law businesses – to agree similar deals in order to ensure they continue to attract the very best candidates.
There are still lots of details to iron out about how funding might work next year - keep watching this space for regular updates.

Websites that could help

There is loads of information out there about how to fund your law degree. The DirectGov website is a good starting point. 

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has also produced an easy to understand guide to student finance in the post 2012 era. Check out his site at: 

The National Union of Students also has some good advice on alternative sources of funding for students who don’t qualify for a student loan or aren’t eligible for a maintenance loan. Have a look at: 


Article provided by Steve Levett, Head of Business Development.


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