Thursday, 16 March 2017

Guest Post - Loose Change UK Money Bloggers

Thanks you UK Money Bloggers for the invitation to write a post for your

Loose Change blog

I focused on a few of the most annoying exceptions to the finance and benefit rules that students often face . It turned into quite a rant so the editor and wonderful founder of Debt Camel allowed it to be a rant of two halves. So here is a link to Part 1 

Students - too often the exception that proves the rule

Friday, 3 March 2017

Our Services and Limited Special Offer

Levitate Student MONEY offers independent, impartial, information and guidance for students studying in Higher Education in the UK 

Our aim is to guide and help students understand their money options and to make their own informed choices.

We want students to be 
empowered consumers and to understand their money RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES and know who to REFER to if they are not sure.

These are our

Our INDEPENDENCE is important to us because sadly sometimes students need help with money problems involving their University, the Welfare Benefit or Student Finance agencies.

We are not part of the government, Student Finance agencies, or directly linked to any Universities or Colleges. We have over 12 years experience in delivering expert student money guidance.

Knowing where to look for the right answers is sometimes not as easy as it sounds. So we are here to help with some useful.....

  Our Services
Presentations & Talks
For Staff, students at organisations who work with prospective HE students

Student funding entitlement guidance
Student funding application guidance
Repaying the student loans
What to do if refused funding or how to appeal a decision
Tips for considering budgeting, accommodation options, bank accounts, jobs

Financial Capability workshops 

For students, students & parents, including activities, games & talks

Funding entitlement
Budgeting and Money Management
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Know where to look for help

One to Ones

Student Money guidance for parents/students based on individual need. 

If complex then follow up work to assist with next steps.  

Limited Offer for 2017– Student & Parent Money Workshop delivered for just   £500 plus trainer travel expenses.

Send your enquiries to us at

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Salad days - guest video

Since there is a salad crisis playing out at the moment thought we would share a video from a friend of Levitate Student - Blogger Gouranga Love!

Abha can knock up a mean and healthy salad and also grows some of her own veg to go into the salads on her allotment. However you don't need to dig and delve to grow your own. She grows salad sprouting seeds on her window sills and re-cycles her Romaine Lettuce, Celery, Chinese Leaves, Pak Choi etc from their salad hearts.

Watch her Salad Days video to see her re-cycled celery and how easy she makes preparing a healthy salad look.

GOURANGA: Gouranga - Salad days: Let me show you how to make a perfect healthy salad with fresh organic and home grown ingredients

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Bank(rupt) of Mum and Dad

I am a parent of two young people born two and a half years apart. That seemed like fairly shrewd family planning at the time. Its seem a common enough set-up looking around, the standard 2 point...whatever kids with about two years recover time between them. The fact is that back then my spouse and I had not projected our minds forward to the impact that decision would have in their university years.

Our Number One Child started university in September 2013 on a four year degree course and our Number Two Child started in September 2015 on a three year degree. So as a consequence they over-lap their uni studies by two years. 

I am going to try to list out what it has cost to support our students aspirations to go to university. Something we have done gladly I must say, in spite if the challenges and financial struggles it has brought us.

What I won't include are the general costs we would have incurred anyway such as food and lodging when they're come home, taxi-ing costs (including back & forth to uni as we would no doubt have done similar driving about to somewhere anyway) holidays we have paid for, Christmas presents, birthday and other gifts etc.

I will start with their student income though.....

Student finance assessment

Our students could not get income assessed student finance as our joint household income took us just over the threshold that allowed anymore than the basic funding. As a consequence both kids were entitled to the tuition fee loan which is not dependent on household income and the non-income assessed maintenance loan.

In 2016/17 this loan is £3,038

They didn't tick any boxes for any extra help from the universities such as bursaries. However one did need to apply for disabled students allowance which has helped with some specialist equipment.

Planning a budget

We would recommend that parents and students sit down and do this together. Its a challenge to know what are appropriate or affordable expenditures. So we agreed to set a a rough budget but discuss their needs and our pressures on going and tweak as needed.

We agreed to send a monthly amount by standing order of £150 to each child (even over the summer). 

So for Child One that's £7,400 over the 4 year course

 & for Child Two that's £5,800 over the 3 year course

The kids have been fairly modest with their spending and have earned some money through working when they could. 

On average they spent somewhere between £200 & £250 per month on out-goings such as food, bills, course costs, travel, socialising (rent excluded).

Looking around the university towns

We visited the potential university towns, some just on the Open Days other we made special trips to see. We made a holiday of it on one occasion since the universities of choice were quite away from home. 

We've easily spent over a £1000 on traveling to the university towns and paying for hotel accommodation.

Filling the bottom drawer

It's easy to get carried away in this department. We bought storage boxes, bedding (you don't really want all your home bedding to go with them) towels, cushions, basic crockery, cutlery. pans, tupperware. We had to buy them both a set of suitcases. We even bought small pieces of supplementary furniture such as drawer units, side tables and even collapsible wardrobe from IKEA for example. 

Books were a very expensive outlay and to be honest I am not sure how much use they were. Even though the university sends a reading/purchase list we would say hang fire until the student has a better idea what is really important themselves.

I would say £1000 would probably cover the books and bottom drawer costs for them both.

Stocking the cupboards

We have tended to help them with a "big shop" at the start of every new term, when we take them back after a break. This is to help them on their way, perhaps we are being over generous to pick up the tab but hey ho. 

So £1,500 should account for the big shop for each of them over the years.

Accommodation costs

This really hurts - I mean really!! The cost of accommodation has definitely been the toughest pressure. Paying for weeks where they are not even living in the accommodation is especially aggrieving.

Also there were hassle and concerns over signing as guarantors on their rental contracts. 

Child One lived in hall in first year and went for the catered option - cost £6,082
In second year they lived in private rented but had saved enough from student income and our monthly contribution to pay their own rent. Cost was £90 per week for 52 weeks with bills on top.

Year three coincided with their siblings first year so once again Child One had to pay their own rent. Which was £75 per week for 52 weeks plus bills.

For year four they returned to halls at an annual cost of £4,995, un-catered this time, once again we parents paid.

Child Two lived in private rented in year one with utility bills included and we paid it - cost £4,200.

Their second year coincided with their siblings final year so while we pay for Child One's halls, Child Two picked up the cost their own rent £105 per week with no bills included.

Their final year we will pay again  - the cost for accommodation (no bills) is £4,920

The kids have paid their own deposits and administration fees as these are often taken at the time of finding the new place.

Summary accommodation cost  to bank of Mum and Dad

               Child One        Child Two        Cost to
              Annual Rent   Annual Rent   Mum & Dad
Year 1      6,082                 -                     6,082                
Year 2      4,680                 -
Year 3      3,900              4,200                4,200                     
Year 4      4,995              5,460                4,995                                        
Year 5          -                  4,920                4,920

Total                                                      £20,197

So from the Bank(rupt) of Mum & Dad)

                     Monthly Budget                 £13,200
 Looking at University Towns                 £ 1,000
      Filling the bottom drawer                 £ 1,000
         Stocking the cupboards                 £ 1,500
           Accommodation Costs                 £20,197

Total       £36,897 


Monday, 16 January 2017

The bottom fell out of Part-time Study.....but it does help with Previous Study rules

When did that happen?......when the government removed the part-time fee grant, small living cost grant, additional fee support scheme and replaced it all with the tuition fee loan, that's when.

The decline was pretty instant but has remained a problem as recent HESA stats show

BBC NEWS - Part-time student numbers at a new low

We advisers saw it our experience the clients most benefiting from part-time study were not likely to be interested in the fee loan funding option. We doubt there will be much improvement with the introduction of loans for living costs for part-time higher education either given the likely impact on entitlement to means-tested welfare benefits.

One saving grace when the regulations changed was for those students who wanted to study full-time but had previous study at Higher Education level that meant they might have to self fund part of their course fee.

This was not as big an issue when the tuition fees were around the £1K mark or even £3K but at £9K self-funding even one year is prohibitive for most people. 

The general rule of thumb is an eligible student can receive funding for fees for 

length of course plus one year minus years of previous HE study

The previous study rules are complex and have caveats regarding course type and reasons for not completing  - so it's always a good plan to seek advice if you have previous study issues. 

Consider a student who started in the past, lets say, two years on a previous higher education course, now wants to start a new 3 years HE course 

3+1-2 = 2 this is the Standard entitlement to fee support

The rules require that this 2 years standard entitlement is allocated to the back end of the course first like this, till it is used up.

Year 1 - Self Fund

Year 2 - Standard Entitlement 2

Year 3 - Standard Entitlement 1

Finding the £9K needed for year 1 could be enough to stop any hopeful prospective students in their tracks.

Here though is where part-time study may be an option. The previous study rules are less rigorous for part-time study. One of the main requirements for fee support entitlement is that the student has not already achieved a qualification higher or equivalent in level to the new course. The requirement is that the new course is not an ELQ - an equivalent or lower qualification

A student facing self-funding could check if the same or similar course to the desired full-time option is offered on a part-time basis. If so, then the student could be eligible to have all their tuition fees paid as a part-timer. Part-timers can study at course intensities from 25% to 75% of a full-time equivalent depending on the programme on offer.

Of course there is currently no living cost provision, but the student is free to work. 

When the government introduces the part-time study living cost loans (proposed for 2018/19) we wonder if they will tweak these previous study rules......

Check out our Previous Study Rules Big Picture

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Free Money MOOCs from Future Learn

So we are simply going to big up Future Learn in this quick post.

We love all things free but especially when it's high quality and that is our experience of the Future Learn courses. 

Here are some titles starting soon on money matters that you might like to check out.

Starting 9th Jan 

 Finance Fundamentals: Financial Planning & Budgeting
 Managing My Money

Starting 23rd Jan
Preparing for University

There are plenty more courses so do check their website for details.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Fun at Moor End Academy Careers Fair

First of all a big thank you for the opportunity to attend the Moor End Academy Year 10 and 11 Careers Fair on 9th December.

It was a real privileged to meet the students  who were very courteous and full of energy even though they had had a busy break down day. The all told us that they had enjoyed the day. It was great to hear their aspirations as they look ahead towards sixth form college and beyond. In Huddersfield students are fortunate to have the excellent Greenhead College and New College as options for Further Education.

We were chatting with the students about their planned journey beyond Further Education into work, apprenticeships or Higher Education. We focused of course on the option of Higher Education and chatted about the money issues. 

We were very impressed with just how knowledgeable the young people already are about the money matters that might impact this option. Some very interesting points were raised and together we created a Student Money Wordcloud where students wrote down the words that spring to mind when they think of student money. The original is in the picture here. We have created a computer version below which generates the more frequently written words in larger text.

Unsurprisingly this included words like loan, debt, money and budgeting. There was a mixture of views as to whether the thought of Student Money was a worrying thing - many pupils said it wasn't. Pupils suggested that family would help out, or that managing financially would be a team effort with help from the government, family, friends and the students own efforts through working and saving. This is very commonly the case....if you want to think about Budgeting as a Higher Education student we recommend you look at the Student Calculator powered by Brightside and the useful Case Studies

We promised to address some of the important matters raised by the pupils at the Careers Fair in our blog so here goes.....

University is Scary - one pupil said she didn't think university was for her - that even the word university was scary. We know what she means - but really universities are not scary places. 

It's okay to decide that Higher Education is not for you, and it's okay to decide that you want to wait - students start university at all ages not just 18. 

If the reason you might not consider uni is because it seems like a scary option then we would recommend that you visit a few universities to look around and meet people. Universities have Open Days a few times a year and you can usually book on through the websites. You don't have to wait till Year 13 to look around - so visit and we are sure you will get a friendly welcome.

It's a Rip-Off  - one pupil said he thought student finance is a rip-off . When we asked why he felt that he made an excellent point about the concern that the financial investment a student makes sometimes not being worth it if it doesn't lead to a good job. This is such an important issue and Employability and the destinations of students leaving higher education are central to the quality measures of how universities are performing. 

The expectation that those with a degree will achieve significantly higher wages than those without a degree is known as the Graduate Premium. Here are a few recent news articles which discuss this matter.....

We would recommend you look at UNISTATS a website which lets you compare important key performance information like this that universities provide.

Haram or حرام - this is an Arabic word that means forbidden. One student raised his concerns about the interest which is applied to the student loans. Under Islamic law, money must not be allowed to create more money, so for Muslim students, loans can be problematic. 

Before 2012 the interest applied to student loans was set at the Retail Price Index only. The Muslim Council of Britain guided that as the loans increased only with the cost of living that they were not necessarily problematic. However the way interest is applied changed in 2012 meaning that they were more likely to be non-compliant with Islamic Law.

The Government understand this concern and in 2014 consulted the public and higher Education sector on the option for Sharia-compliant Student Finance . The outcome was the government expressed it's support for the introduction of a Sharia-compliant Takaful alternative finance product, available to everyone, and intends to work on its development. 

Debt - if you are worried about the debt the we recommend you read Student Loans Myth Busting on for guidance.