Going to university can be an essential step onto the career ladder, but with tuition fees up to £9,000 a year, getting a degree has never been less affordable.
If you or your children are planning to go to university in the not too distant future, it is essential that you consider how you will cover the cost sooner rather than later.
Students who started their education from 2012 onwards fall into the higher fee threshold, where universities can charge anywhere up to £9,000 a year in fees alone.
However, not all course providers have decided to set their fees to this maximum level. Check how much the universities your son or daughter is looking at plan to charge for their chosen subject, and take this into consideration before they apply.
Accommodation costs represent one of the biggest outgoings for students.
• Most undergraduate students spend the first year of their studies in university halls of residence, before moving into private rented accommodation.
• Compare their cost of staying in halls to that of renting a room in a house in the town or city where they will be studying.
• If your son or daughter is studying closer to home, they may save money by staying with you and commuting to university rather than paying accommodation costs.
• Some student halls may be catered, meaning they’ll cost more but will provide meals for your son or daughter. Work out whether they would spend more on food if left to their own devices.
• Your son or daughter may also be able to cut the costs of student accommodation by volunteering as a warden, although this is not always open to undergraduate students.
Saving in advance is a must for any potential student and their parents. Even if your son or daughter is heading off to university in just a few months, it is never too late to start putting money aside, especially as the first few months can be some of the most expensive.
You can also encourage them to do the same by taking advantage of the better interest rates offered by under 18s savings accounts.
Compare instant access accounts to find an option that helps you and your child save for the cost of university life and lets you draw your money when you need to.
Check for bursaries and grants
Checking each university's website for grants and bursaries, and applying for any that you are eligible for, is a good way of reducing the cost of your child's university education.
Some universities offer money to the highest academic achievers, to encourage applications from the highest achieving students. If your son or daughter needs any extra motivation to study, the possibility of a financial reward for their efforts could help spur them on.
Apply for student finance
Your son or daughter can apply for both a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan:
Tuition fee loan
The tuition fee loan is paid directly to the university to cover the annual cost of their tuition fees.
This means the money never actually passes through your child's bank account.
The maintenance loan is designed to provide funds to cover the costs of living while studying.
The amount your son or daughter will be eligible for depends on your household income and where they will be living during their studies. For 2016/17 the maximum available to students is as follows:
• £6,904 for students living at home while studying
• £8,200 for students living outside of London and away from home
• £10,702 for students living in London and away from home
• £9,391 for students living or studying abroad for at least one term
Remember, while a student loan is one of the cheapest ways of borrowing money, it will still have to be repaid once your son or daughter is working and earning enough to pay it back.
Compare student bank accounts
A student bank account is likely to be the centre of your child's finances throughout their university life. Choosing an account that best suits their needs could save them a substantial sum over the duration of a three or four year university course.
Many student accounts also offer other perks like travel insurance or a student railcard that may prove useful and save your child money during their university life.
Compare student bank accounts.
Re-examine your finances
One way you may be able to help your son or daughter is by cutting your costs in other areas, allowing you to save more towards their university fund.
Your utility bills, mortgage provider, and financial products are areas you might want to consider reviewing.
Prepare a budget
If your son or daughter has had little experience in managing their money, then work out:
• what their major costs will be while at university
• what you can afford to contribute
• any other income they will have, such as a maintenance loan or a wage from a job
You could then prepare a budget with them before they leave, outlining how much they can afford to spend each week.
Chances are you will need to buy quite a few household items to prepare your son and daughter for life away from home.
Compare prices online before you buy, or even while you are out shopping, and you could end up saving quite a considerable sum of money in total.
Consider renting out their room
If you need to find extra income to help support your son or daughter, you could consider renting out their room to a lodger while they are away.
Many lodgers will only need a room during the week, meaning that if your child wants to come home at the weekend, they would still be able to.