As a student, there are lots of new things to get used to. For many people, going to university is their first time living alone, which can be a big change in itself. Often, although students are used to being told to tidy their room at home, they find there is a lot more to deal with when living on your own – from doing your own laundry to cooking your own meals! However, one thing that many students worry about the most is how to organise their finances while they are at university. The finance system is complicated and can be a lot to take in for anyone at first. Luckily, there is lots of support available to students, from maintenance loans to additional bursaries. This article will focus on claiming benefits while you are a student.
Generally speaking, those in full-time university education are not usually eligible for universal credit, although they may be able to get certain other types of support such as a disability allowance. Additionally, there may be exceptions, such as if your partner claims universal credit. If you are only studying part-time, and have time to work alongside this, you are more likely to be able to claim universal credit – but again, this varies.
As you may have noticed, the benefit system is complicated! It can be overwhelming to begin with, but remember, there is always support available. Keep reading for plenty of information on how the benefits system works while you are a student.
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Can full-time students claim universal credit?
Universal credit is one of the most well-known forms of financial support in the UK. This page of the government website gives you an overview of what exactly universal credit is. Being a university student affects your eligibility for this particular type of support.
In most circumstances, if you are a full-time university student, you will not be able to claim universal credit. However, there are many things to consider, so don’t assume that full-time students don’t have any access to financial support.
The main factor that affects your universal credit as a student is your student loan. During the assessment period to check your eligibility for universal credit, your maintenance loan is taken into account and deducted from any payments you may receive.
The maintenance loan is the loan all first-time university students can apply for through the student finance system. It is meant to support students with various everyday costs including rent and food.
Your tuition fee loan, however, does not affect your universal credit eligibility or payments. This is the money that funds the university education itself. For more information on student loans, as well as information on applying, have a look at this article from Think Student.
Are there any circumstances in which full-time students can claim universal credit?
Although your student loan will affect whether you can claim universal credit, this eligibility is assessed each month. This means that you may still receive payments during the summer holidays, when you have several months away from university.
One other situation in which you may be eligible for universal credit payments is if you are not yet in university but studying full-time at a lower education level (for example, A-Levels). This is support designed for young students (under 21) who do not have parental support from their parents as they study.
Another exception is if you are living with a partner who is eligible for universal credit, or already claims it. This will make it more likely that you can claim this support.
What benefits can full-time students claim?
Just because universal credit is not usually available to those studying in university full-time, this does not mean there is no financial support available to students.
The first thing to remember is that many students are eligible for maintenance loans to help cover the cost of living. The main exception to this is if you are studying for a second degree. For more information on loans for another degree, have a look at this Think Student article.
How much you receive for your maintenance loan varies depending on your household income, whether you are living at home, and whether you are studying in London (where prices are typically higher than the rest of the country). You may be able to get over £12,000 each year of your studies.
This loan is often the main source of money to fund students during the course of their degree. For more information about maintenance loans, have a look at this article from savethestudent.org.
As well as maintenance loans, there may be other financial support available for certain groups of students. For example, various state benefits are available to help those living with a disability, or who have caring or parental responsibilities while they are studying.
Can you claim benefits if you are a part-time student?
If you are only studying part-time, you are more likely to be eligible for financial support in the form of universal credit. Often, you will have to be working, or searching for work, alongside your studies.
As with full-time students, remember that universal credit is not the only form of benefits. Disability allowances and support for students responsible for a child are typically still available, regardless of whether or not you are a student.
For plenty of information about the range of state benefits available, have a look at this page from gingerbread.org.uk. From tax credits to housing benefits, there is often a lot more financial support available to students than people expect.
Of course, there are lots of things to consider that will be unique to your situation. Details about your individual circumstances, such as the exact type and length of the course you are studying, can affect what benefits you are and are not eligible for.
It is always worth double checking if there is financial support available to you. This article from turn2us.org.uk has a full guide on claiming benefits, specifically as a part-time student.
What is the difference between benefits and student loans?
There is lots of new terminology to deal with when talking about finance. Often, new students get confused as many types of financial support for students seem similar on the surface.
The most significant difference is between state benefits and student loans. Benefits, such as universal credit, are available to citizens regardless of whether or not they are a student. They help people who struggle with financial difficulty, for example, if a health condition prevents someone from working a full-time job.
In contrast, student loans are only available to students (as suggested by the name!). All students are eligible for these loans, regardless of their financial situation.
Although household income is considered when calculating eligibility for maintenance loans, everyone can still receive a certain amount. Tuition fee loans are not affected by your family’s financial situation – all first-time university students receive the same amount of about £9,000 a year.
Although students may be able to use a combination of benefits and their student loan to fund their studies, they are two different forms of financial support.