Student money worries: Key facts and figures

26 August 2021
  • Two weeks since A-Level results day and thousands of young people across Wales are starting to sweat about what they can squeeze into the car when they head off to uni.

    UCAS has come up with a checklist [opens in new window] of essential items to pack, including earplugs (to drown out next door’s party) and sunglasses (to cover up Freshers’ Week eye-bags).

    The item that caught my eye was a ‘purse’.

    Money will be towards the top of the worry list for many students and their parents/guardians.

    Short term worries might be: How much will I have to live on each week? How much help can I get with my finances?

    Longer term worries might be: How much of my loan will I have to pay back? And over how long?

    We have just published a report that answers many of these questions. It also explains how the system of student finances works in Wales and how the Welsh Government oversees things.

    You can read the full report here.

    But if you don’t want to read the whole thing (you may well be too busy making the most of your remaining time at home with friends and family), here are some of the key things you may be interested in:

    What does it cost to study at university?

    • Welsh universities can charge up to £9,000 a year for full-time undergraduate tuition fees. You could be charged £9,250 if you study elsewhere in the UK. (You don’t have to pay this in advance.)
    • On top of tuition fees, you need to pay for food and drink, rent etc. But financial support is available.   

    Where do you go for financial support?

    • You apply to Student Finance Wales [opens in new window] (SFW) for funding, even if you choose to study elsewhere in the UK.
    • SFW is a brand that the Student Loans Company (SLC) uses in Wales. The Welsh Government pays SLC to manage the system of applying for and paying out student loans and grants.

    How much money can you get?

    • You can get a loan to cover tuition fees. This is paid directly to the university.
    • You can also get help with living costs, partly through a maintenance loan, and partly through a grant. This is paid directly to you. 
    • You will have to pay back the loan but not the grant.
    • Each year, you can get between £8,790 and £12,930 for living costs, depending on where you live and study. The balance between loan and grant support will depend on your household income. Lower income households receive more in the form of a grant and less in the form of a loan.

    How much do you have to pay back?

    • On 31 March 2020 there were more than 250,000 Welsh former students with some of their student loan outstanding.
    • Interest is added to your loan from day 1, so you end up owing more than you borrowed.
    • The Welsh Government’s Partial Cancellation Scheme [opens in new window] wipes off up to £1,500 of students’ loans in certain circumstances.
    • You start paying back your loan in the April after you finish your course, and only once you start earning more than a set ‘repayment threshold’. The current threshold is £27,295 but this may increase over time.
    • If you never earn more than the threshold, you will not pay back anything.
    • The amount you repay every month depends on what you earn, not how much you owe. Those earning more will pay back more each month.
    • Monthly repayments will be 9% of whatever you earn above the repayment threshold. These payments are made through the tax system.
    • Any student loan plus interest that remains unpaid after 30 years is written off.

    I hope this has helped in some way.

    Finally, here’s some information I definitely would have found useful before going to university for the first time, data from the Office for National Statistics [opens in new window] on the price of things like pasta, bread and baked beans.

    (PS. Most of the content of the blog relates to new, full-time undergraduates and is up to date as of the 2021/22 academic year. Financial support packages are also available for part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students. SFW has the full details of support available and eligibility criteria for Welsh students and EU students studying in Wales on its website).

    About the author

    Image of Steve L

    Steve is an audit manager in our national studies team and also helps manage our data analytics function. He is a keen triathlete and former journalist.