Archive | Student Finance RSS feed for this section

How should Higher Education be funded?

6 Oct

It’s a topic that is has been particularly highly debated over the last year, promises were made in the election campaigns, students were canvassed for their votes and Universities demanded more money. However, now we have a coalition government who doesn’t seem to be sure about how they should proceed. The Liberal Democrats promised to scrap University tuition fees for first degrees and the Conservatives covered their backs by saying ‘We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to: increase social mobility; take into account the impact on student debt; ensure a properly funded university sector; improve the quality of teaching; advance scholarship; and attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.’.

However, now it is time to see some action and some decision from our new Government. The average student comes out of their first (3 year) degree owing over £21,000 in student loan and tuition fee loan. That’s providing they don’t get into any extra debt through credit cards or other loans. The system isn’t working, we’ve blogged already about the amount of trouble Student Finance England have been in and the stress it has caused countless students trying to access funding.

Yesterday, the Guardian published some views on the Browne review of higher education funding and spoke to student and staff representatives from Kingston University. Their opinions are interesting, and seem to back up the general consensus that the current system is not fair, but what the ideal solution would be is undecided.

The current system allows students from low-income families or disadvantaged backgrounds to access a wealth of funding, however those students coming from middle-class families with an average income are left with very little grant and a lot of debt.

We don’t know what the solution is, without a pot of money to pay for everyone’s degrees there isn’t an easy option. Graduate taxation doesn’t sound ideal and just means you face longer as a new graduate before you are able to start thinking about getting on the property ladder or having any financial security. The way grants and loans are administered at the moment isn’t right either, with many students from a ‘typical’ university-goer background missing out on funding or saddling thousands of pounds worth of debt. Increasing tuition fees to a potential £10,000 a year would more than triple the debt students come out of University with – not a good way to start your career.

What do you think? How should our degrees be funded? Has opening the doors of Higher Education to everyone meant that a degree isn’t worth as much in the job market? How do you fund your degree/living now? Let us know!

It’s a tricky one!

Love

Clever Student Money

Advertisements

NUS Extra: Is it really worth it?

18 Sep

If you haven’t already heard of it, by the time your University’s Freshers’ Fayre comes around we promise you that you will have done.

Advertised as THE student discount card, it seems to be a must-have for students. The big drawback is that it costs £11. So what do you get that makes it so amazing? And most importantly of all, is it worth the money?

Like we’ve mentioned before, most University ID cards also double as student discount cards. Most also have the NUS logo on, which seems to satisfy most shops.

There is a list of ‘exclusive discounts’ on the NUS Extra website. Some of the stores mentioned, on our experience, do accept your student ID card, however there are some who do say they will only accept the NUS Extra. The deciding factor then, is how many of these exclusive discounts you really will use, and how much money that will save. It is advertised that it also acts as an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) but this actually costs you an additional £1.99 on top of the £11 card fee (if this is what you want the card for then you can get the ISIC card directly from them for £9).

From our experience we don’t use any of the retailers advertised often enough to spend money on a discount card especially for using there. Particularly as the retailers offered aren’t the cheapest in their respective markets and like previously mentioned a lot of them accept other forms of student ID.

Of course we won’t be able to make this decision for you, and you may see a discounted retailer that you spend a lot of money at, therefore £11 will soon be paid off in the savings you make. However we would suggest waiting a few weeks, seeing how many places in your University town take your regular student ID and then decide whether you think you’ll really need to spend the extra money. It may not seem like a large payment when your student loan is burning a hole through your pocket, but trust us – that money will come in useful later on down the line!

So our advice would be don’t buy it during Freshers’ week, and carefully consider whether it is going to save you any money you can’t already save with your free student ID card!

Delectable discounts: On the High Street

16 Sep

Why hello again!

Two posts in one day – aren’t you the lucky ones?

This week’s edition of Delectable Discounts is all about shopping on the high street.

Most lovely high street shops offer student discounts usually between 10 and 20%. Now there is no point in writing a definitive list of who does and doesn’t offer discounts on the high street as it is liable to change. However one of the key players who does permanently offer a student discount is the Arcadia Group (Topshop, Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Evans), in fact they currently have a 20% student discount offer on. They accept any student ID card as proof and off you go with a nice saving on some new clothes! Other places that offer discounts include; La Senza, Warehouse, New Look, Peacocks, Waterstones, Schuh, Miss Sixty, Staples, Game, Dune, Benetton, Milletts, Blacks annnnd Subway. This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it gives you a good idea of where you can save on the high street.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Especially with local shops and independent stores, many of which are now flooding the high street. As well as helping the local economy, you’ll usually find great deals and better discounts as well. We’ve got into the habit of always asking if they do a student discount when we go to pay as you never know when a shop might change their mind!

Some high street shops are now switching to only offering their student discount to those students who present them with an NUS Extra card. We will cover this in an additional post it is the time of year that many students will be weighing up the pros and cons of paying the £11 for one. Keep an eye out for that in the next week!

Enjoy all that cheaper shopping!

Love

CSM

Student Finance: BBC Radio 4 Money Box Live

16 Sep

Good morning campers!

How are we all?

We have a treat for you today, not one but two posts are coming your way!!  The usual Thursday scoop of Delectable Discounts will arrive later on this afternoon but first we have to point out a great radio programme that aired yesterday afternoon on BBC Radio 4.

Money Box Live is a phone-in programme hosted by Paul Lewis and looks at different financial issues every week.  About this time every year, they have a student finance special. Yesterday it was the hot topic and they had representatives from Student Finance England, Kingston University, Student Finance in Scotland and the NUS.

It proved to be an interesting listen, of course there were plenty of worried students and parents phoning in to talk to the SFE rep.  There was some good advice given and good points raised.

If you’ve got time over the next few days, we would recommend listening to the show.  It is available on BBC iPlayer to listen again.

Enjoy!

CSM

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?

15 Sep

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?.

Whilst this won’t affect us right now (remember the Lib Dems campaign trail…student fees to be abolished with immediate effect?), it is still important to think about what is going to happen.  Surely this broken system can’t survive much longer?

What are your thoughts?

CSM

Student Loan Saga: Update

14 Sep

Happy Tuesday all!

We have a present for you today…

The next installment in the Student Finance England statistics is now available to view online.

According to the statistics, 75% of the live applications are prepared for payment, leaving (they seem to have managed to add up to 100 this time) 21% of applications awaiting further evidence and 4% in the hands of SFE, LEAs or local authorities.

Official statistics – SFEngland.

However, having spoken to several dissatisfied students (new and returning), most of the 21% whose application seemingly rests in their own hands are banging their heads against the wall in frustration.  One new student, is now submitting her parents’ financial information for the 3rd time despite having an older sister in the system (3rd year student) whose application has been processed with no issues.  This new student’s mother has been told that she only has one daughter at University despite the elder daughter’s application recognising the financial information from both her parents and the SFE have repeatedly asked for information that has been sent in before, numerous times.  The two daughters share the same parents, the same home address and the same surname.  As this student is starting at University in a matter of weeks, it is difficult for her to feel relaxed about a situation that is entirely the fault of a disorganised SFE.

The SFE refuse to admit that the system has once again failed and is disorganised, time-wasting and stressful for students, and parents, who have so much to do at this time of year

It has been brought to the attention of Clever Student Money that most LEAs have far too many students to process with very few staff, due to having to fund this centralised system from cuts in their own budgets and reduced staffing, however all LEAs have managed to maintain quick turnarounds and push the information through to SFE central office.  As all LEAs are up to date with their applications despite the strains put on them, it raises the issue of the combined figures reported by the SFE as this would suggest that the 29% of applications still pending are actually with the central SFE office.

Clever Student Money have even been told that Student Finance England are in such a mess, they even called a “Red alert” meeting with representatives from The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently.  News of what this entailed or what they discussed hasn’t reached us yet – we’ll keep our ear to the ground for more information.  But this is definitely not what we want to hear a matter of weeks before the first installments of student loans are due.

Like in the case of the new student we mentioned earlier, there are repeated cases where documents are being lost by the central unit after being scanned.  Amazingly, Students have also been sent documents that they shouldn’t have received, the worst of which included a claim sheet from an SFE employee for 52 hours of overtime for the month of May.   When this was pointed out to Clever Student Money, the question was raised of why staff were required to do 52 hours of overtime in May if these problems are arising due to late student applicants like they claim?

One student commented on our our previous blog post to tell us that her friend has even had tuition fee loans confirmed for two separate universities!  Completely bonkers!

We will keep you all updated as we hear more, in the meantime don’t forget to let us know your horror stories of dealing with Student Finance England!

Good Luck!!

Love

CSM

Delectable student discounts!

9 Sep

We love love LOVE saving money and the easiest way of saving money as a student is by flashing that wonderful piece of plastic.  Of course, we aren’t talking about credit cards, store cards or even loyalty cards….we are of course talking about Student ID cards.

Student ID cards are usually distributed by every University during Freshers’ Week as part of enrolment.  Ours have a lovely picture of us on (not quite that lovely as it was the morning after the night before…!), our course, a ‘Valid until:’ date, the NUS logo and clever techie bits to allow us access to libraries and our departments at University.  That’s all very nice, but the best bit is what happens when you show that card at shops nationwide (and sometimes even internationally).

‘Do you do a student discount?’ is asked at every shop, cafe and entertainment facility we go to.  A lot of the time, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.  More and more places are cottoning on to the fact that by offering lovely students enticing discounts, more of said students will be entering their establishment more regularly.  Hooray for us, and hooray for them.  Happy smiles all round.

This series of blog posts, hitting your computer screens every Thursday, will be highlighting key student discounts that you can get.  Some of them are permament, some are temporary.

To begin with, we’ve picked out a few that are going to help you over the next few weeks.

These are for those computer lovers among you.  Going to University is a classic time to buy a laptop or just upgrade one that you have already.  It’s an expensive thing to do, but luckily some retailers do offer great discounts if you can prove you are a student.

The big electrical stores aren’t much help when it comes to offering student discounts, however we have discovered it is always worthwhile asking even if a discount isn’t officially offered as a lot of Managers have a certain amount of discretionary discount they can use.

In our experience, we have had much better results using local and independent computer shops which have given us free software or money off the laptop itself.  Hunt around your local area, you’ll be surprised what deals you can find!  Also worth a try, is checking with your University to see if they have a computer shop or any exclusive discounts  for their students.

Our key mantra is ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get!’

Apple UK have an Educational Store which has some great offers on their products.  However you usually have to prove your eligibility by using your university email address.  If you are a fresher and haven’t yet received an official email, then it is usually the first thing the Uni sort out for you so don’t panic!

Microsoft also have a UK Educational Store which again, you have to prove your eligibility to use but it works much in the same way as the Apple Store.  You can currently get Windows 7 Professional for just £30.  Massive savings to be had there!

Dell and Sony both offer direct student deals as well.

Another tip to save money on that all important laptop is to buy refurbished models.  It’s a great way to guarantee you are getting value for money and usually find a lot of software is thrown in as well.

On the subject of software, check out OpenSource software as a great alternative to buying things like Microsoft Office.  There are hundreds of articles singing the praises of OpenSource software, so we won’t say much about it, just that it is definitely worthwhile thinking about using that instead of spending your cash on other brands.  We use OpenOffice and love it!

Right, that’s it for today.

Up tomorrow: Cheap Eats!

Love

CSM

Useful sites: Student finance at guardian.co.uk

6 Sep

The Guardian has a selection of great articles on it’s Student finance site at the moment.  Take a look at the link given below, the articles range from talking about budgeting through to living in shared accommodation.  Well worth a flick through and probably a good one to bookmark and come back to later as well!

Student finance | Money | guardian.co.uk.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new article and a selection of great student discounts!

Love CSM

Student Loans saga

5 Sep

There hasn’t been a September for several years that has seen nothing in the media about the student loan scheme.  Every year something seems to go wrong, whether it is applications not being processed quickly, applications being given the wrong funding or worse of all, no funding turning up at all.

This year is no different.  Once again, there are thousands of students who have received wrong or no information about their student loans.  First year students whose parents have submitted financial information, only to be told that Student Finance England (the main culprits of the mistakes it seems) don’t have any record of the information being sent.  Returning students have had loans cut by over £1000 because details haven’t been processed, and generally all students are left with a uneasy feeling and no confidence that the money will be paid on time if at all.

The latest press release from Student Finance England reads as follows:

“STUDENT FINANCE ENGLAND APPLICATION PROGRESS UPDATE – 30 AUGUST 2010

We would like to assure students that processing at Student Finance England is going well this year. There have been some reports in the media claiming that large numbers of students will not receive their funding at the start of term. We would urge the media and public to refer to our official statistics, which shows that this is not the case:

The latest statistics are from 26 August and will be updated every fortnight.

The statistics show that we have processed the majority of applications and they are ready for payment once students register at university.

We have put in place a process to ensure that even students applying just before the start of term can get the majority of their money. These students must apply online, prove their eligibility with their passport number, return their signed declaration form, and then register and attend university.

For further information please contact the Student Loans Company press office: 0141 306 2120.”

The statistics say that of 877,000 live application for student finance for the year 2010/2011, 71% (877,000) have been cleared and processed for payment.  Another 25% (218,000)  are ‘awaiting further evidence or signature from the applicant’ and then they quote 5% (40,000) of the applications are ‘currently with Student Finance England’.

As direct quotes from the statistics they have released, you’ll be as amused as us to notice that adds up to 101%.  Good omen? We don’t think so.

However, for 30% of the students who have applied for student finance, the applications have not been processed fully.  Without data about when these applications were made, we can’t comment fully on the productivity or competence of Student Finance England.  We don’t think it looks good that 2 weeks before most Freshers will be moving into their new University Accommodation, nearly a third of students don’t have guaranteed funding.

It’s bad enough that the current generation of students are coming out of University with around £21,000 in debt.  Couldn’t the government at least get a system that allowed the process to be significantly less stressful and definitely less time consuming?

We are really interested in researching the 2010 application delays further.  Please let us know your experiences at the email address: savvystudent@gmx.com or leave a comment on this blog.

The next press release from Student Finance England is due on the 9th December, with statistics to be valid as of 2nd September.  We will be watching with interest.

Hope you’re all enjoying a cosy weekend!

Love

CSM

Ahhh! It’s time to pack!

2 Sep

It’s now the 2nd of September, most Freshers are now just a few weeks away from installing themselves into their chosen Halls and preparing to hit Freshers’ week with a vengeance. But first, you have that tedious task of packing. What do you think you’ll need? And how much does it differ from what your parents think you need? No doubt the two lists differ massively, our list hopefully comes somewhere in the middle but definitely contains all the best time and money saving ideas that will keep Mum happy and gets you to University ready to party (study….we definitely mean study).

This isn’t a comprehensive list, however there are a few key items that will really save you time and money if you can get them before Uni, these are our suggestions to help you make the most out of those key first few weeks where the last thing you want to be doing is trailing around the shops trying to find a doorstop.

So first thing on the Clever Student Money list is:

A good cookery book: We recommend The Virgin Student Cookbook. It is a great book, simply written with yummy cheap recipes that are going to keep vital cash in your wallet, good food in your belly and not going to take hours of socialising (sorry, studying time) away from you. You can pick it up for less than the cost of a pizza from Amazon and although it is a few years old, we still haven’t found one that is as good fun to learn from. It also has some great cocktail recipes and hangover cures!

A Wok: One thing we learnt whilst living in Halls is that things go missing/get broken/get used by flatmates who don’t know how to wash up. So the number one rule for kitchen equipment at University is don’t spend lots of money. Our favourite (and most used) item in the kitchen was the Wok. It’s easy to throw together quick stirfrys, you can cook bolognese in it, stews and soups could all be made in it. It heats up quickly and holds a lot! We have even used it as a mixing bowl when making Birthday cakes. Ikea do one for £2.39, yes you did just read that right. It is good quality and lasts well. Definitely a must-have.

Cheap cutlery: Absolutely do not bother spending more than a few pounds on cutlery as it will go missing. It is easily thrown into bins, misplaced, borrowed and probably eaten. Our tip is to take more than one fork, knife and spoon. You can usually pick up 4 sets for a fiver from places like Ikea.

Bottle opener and Corkscrew: One way to make friends very quickly is to be the only one who remembered to bring a corkscrew. A favourite way of saving money for many students is to ‘pre-drink’, that is have a few drinks at the flat before heading out. Having a bottle opener or corkscrew on hand is essential in this situation. (Note…we do advocate sensible drinking! Honest!). Pick up one for a quid at Ikea or the Pound Shop.

Tupperware: This is our other money saving kitchen essential. It is hard to cook for one person, the best and cheapest way to cook is in batches. Make enough Spag Bol for 4 or 5 people, freeze 4 portions and eat one portion now! Tupperware come in useful for putting food in the freezer and fridge. Pick up a variety of sizes, they don’t have to be posh ones like your mum has. Just save some plastic takeaway boxes and lids, or alternatively places like a Pound Shop or Wilkinsons will have cheap options.

There are lots of other things for the kitchen that you will need to cook for yourself, we’ll mention some more vital pieces of equipment in our Cheap Eats series of blog posts that will be starting soon. Most good student cook books also have a list of items that will be useful to you.

Ikea, Wilkinsons and Pound shops are all good places to pick up cheap equipment. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much money on expensive equipment as Halls in your first year is the best place for it all to get wrecked, broken or lost!

Out of the kitchen, there are all the obvious things that you need to take and we refuse to patronise you by listing them for you (but please please don’t forget underwear!!). So what else is going to help you save time and money in those first few weeks?

Clothes Airer: You will no doubt have access to a launderette somewhere in your halls or on campus. However, the tumble dryers NEVER dry your clothes well at all. There is absolutely no point in pouring your cash (almost quite literally) down the drain by using tumble dryers for hours. We recommend picking up a clothes airer. One of those that collapse down flat and hold a lot of clothes. If only to dry smaller items such as T shirts and underwear. It will save you a lot of time waiting for your laundry, and pounds in drying costs. Don’t forget that as part of your halls fees, your heating is paid for – so whack the radiator up and get the clothes dried quickly for free!

Printer: Printing costs at University libraries are not economical, although there are upkeep costs to having a printer, it invariably will save you money in the long run. Printing at your University can be anything up from about 5p per sheet. When you have several essays that need handing in, these costs soon mount up. It is now possible to get cheap printers, ink can be refilled and reams of paper cost a few pounds. Definitely worth the initial outlay. Don’t forget that if you are Dyslexic or Dyspraxic you can get Computer equipment paid for and allowances for paper and ink to help you. Check with your university student support centre for more information.

Doorstop: Technically this isn’t money saving but we think it needed to be included! Most Halls rooms have self-closing doors which are fire doors so are usually heavy. The most sociable thing to do is to prop your door open, (yes, we know you are usually told not to…but everyone does), it will help you meet people, feel less isolated and generally have a few laughs. Usually about a £1 from a Ironmongers, Pound Shop or Market they are a good addition to your new bedroom!

Fancy dress: A bit of a silly one, but surprisingly expensive! Take any items of Fancy Dress that you own with you to University, you’ll be surprised at how many themed nights there are. Especially useful if you join societies (which we recommend!) as you’ll have lots of socials to attend. Of course there is always Primark but if you’ve got some accessories on hand, it will definitely lower the cost!

Chargers: For your laptop, phone, MP3 etc etc. This doesn’t need explaining – just don’t forget them!

Good bike lock: If you are taking your bike to University, we recommend investing in a good D-lock, they are much more sturdy than coiled locks. We also recommend keeping your bike in your halls bike sheds if this is available. Usually they are only accessible by a key and often are monitored by CCTV. Taking your bike to University saves you money on bus fares, gym fees and also keeps you on time for those early morning lectures!

Things you definitely do NOT need to take.

Stationary: Freshers’ Fayres are the best place to pick up a year’s worth of pens, pencils and paper for no cost at all! You really don’t need to waste valuable space in the car on stationary. Though we do recommend taking your A Level notes for relevant subjects. Also, a few ringbinders will help keep you organised. Most universities have student shops selling cheap stationary though, so it is probably worth while waiting until you are settled in before buying more.

Text Books for your course: the cheapest option is never the most advertised! Most courses offer bundles of books for several hundred pounds. It is really not usually necessary to buy all the recommended texts. Your University Library will have several copies that you can borrow when necessary. If you are desperate to key texts, then head to your school noticeboard to buy books from 2nd and 3rd years. Other places such as Amazon, Ebay, abebooks.co.ukjscampus.co.uksellstudentstuff.com may be able to provide cheap second-hand copies.  Alternatively, try a book-swapping website, such as Bookmooch or ReadItSwapIt for free texts.  University text books can be £70-£100 per book. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that hundreds of pounds can disappear on text books!

Car: this is highly debated but take time to carefully consider the pros and cons before taking your car with you to University. You are faced with not only insurance, upkeep and fuel costs, but also with very little parking around campus and even less in city centres. You also become the taxi for everyone in your flat – especially when it comes to supermarket shops! Think carefully, with a student rail card – getting home can be cheaper by train.

So that is the pick of the money saving items to take with you to Freshers…however we will be mentioning more things over the next few weeks.  If you have a great idea that we haven’t mentioned then let us know! Comment on this blog or email us at savvystudent@gmx.com

By the way…

If you really can’t figure out what else you need to take to University with you and need a comprehensive list (yes it includes underwear  and toothpaste)…then check out this list at The Student Room.

%d bloggers like this: