Tag Archives: student finance

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

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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

Introducing: Cheap Eats

3 Sep

Here at Clever Student Money we love our food.  We don’t just love food, we love cooking food.  Mainly because we’ve discovered how much cheaper it is to cook properly rather than rely on the microwave and local takeaway.

However, we also know how scary it can be trying to cook for yourself if you have never done so before.  It’s alright scraping together a meal at home when the food is in the fridge and you have a full store cupboard to raid.  Even if you are a competent cook, it’s suddenly a bit different when you have an empty fridge, just a bit of mouldy bread in the cupboard and no fresh vegetables to speak of (and no that green ‘thing’ growing in your cereal bowl definitely isn’t a fresh vegetable).

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to stocking your cupboards and filling your fridge.  Our ‘Cheap Eats’ series is going to be a weekly blog post that aims to gently educate you in how to keep yourself happily and healthily fed at University.  It will guide you through how to stock your cupboard with the essentials, show you the best places to do your fresh produce shopping and suggest some yummy, simple and quick recipes that will keep you happy.

As we mentioned in ‘Ahh! It’s time to pack!’, there are some great student cookbooks out there.  We recommend The Virgin Student Cookbook.  It’s easy to read, full of great advice and fantastic recipes.  It even has a section devoted to hangover cures…that’s got to be a good book!

So now we have introduced this series, it is time to introduce a website that is brand new to us but already top on our list of money saving sites!

It was pointed out a few days ago by Miss Thrifty over at her blog.  We’ve had a good look at it and are very excited!  (You can see her original blog post about the site here).

The website is The  Resourceful Cook and is a great way to plan a weeks meals in just a few minutes.  You can select 1, 2 or 4-person menus and even adjust the menus according to your tastes and budgets.  There are several low-cost menus in their frugal eats menus.  The menu planner pulls out 7 recipes for dinner that week and then if you approve, creates a shopping list with a total estimated spend.

For example:

Meals for 1 Person.  Menu plan: ‘Frugal Favourites 1’.

Meals suggested:

Cottage Pie, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Sweet Chilli Chicken Kebabs, Chicken Curry, Creamy Mushroom Crumble, Cashew Curry, Sweet and Sour Pork.

Sounds yummy to us!!

It assumes you have a basic store cupboard (really basic, don’t worry!).  It quotes an estimated cost of £11per person for the weeks food, the ingredients are listed as a shopping list with the quantities required.   It also gathers all the recipes into one place as well.

It’s a great idea, and a great way to meal plan without having to sit down and work it out yourself.  We are going to trial the site and it’s recommendations to see how accurate it is with ingredient prices.  Of course, we shall report back to you all with our opinions.

From experience, once you have done a few shops and start getting your store cupboard stocked up, it becomes easy to cook from scratch with just a few fresh groceries needed to be bought.

Don’t forget to invite us to dinner when you feel ready to debut your cooking skills!

Be back here, same time next week for the next installment in Cheap Eats!

Love

CSM

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