What Is The Real Cost Of University?

Whether you’re fresh out of college or looking to return as a mature student, going to university can be a fulfilling experience that offers education as well as the chance to upskill in your field.

But for many students, it’s also an expensive few years – and graduation can come hand in hand with the uncomfortable realisation that uni hasn’t exactly set you up for a great financial future.

We’re crunching the numbers to help students understand how it all adds up.

What Is The Real Cost Of University?

Based on the government’s maximum maintenance loans, students can expect to spend £8,700 per year on living costs – that rises to a hefty £11,354 for those of you studying in London.

This is the highest amount that a student can expect to borrow from the government, although as the grants are means-tested many students will find themselves borrowing far less. If you don’t qualify for the maximum amount then your parents will be expected to make up the difference (or, if you’re a mature student, you’ll need to find it from your own wages).

But is this really enough to get by? Based on Save the Student’s National Student Money Survey 2018, the answer is a resounding no. They found that students need an average of £770 per month for their living costs (£9,240 per year) – £500 above the maximum amount available to most students, even without considering the fact that the majority will receive less than that.

And despite the stereotypes, the bulk of this is going on rent and food… not social activities. The University of Edinburgh estimate that rent can cost anywhere from £425 to £795 per month, while grocery bills will come in at a minimum of £155. Add in bills and textbooks and that doesn’t actually leave much left for going out at all; not ideal, since an active social life can be an important part of the student experience and help to keep stress levels down.

What Is The Real Cost Of University?

So, what can you do to take control? We don’t recommend students use payday loans and we don’t love the idea of credit cards filling in for a lack of cash-flow. Instead, here are three back-to-basic tips for getting through some of the more expensive years of your life:

  • Learn to budget. If you’ve never managed your own finances before then you might be surprised by how well a budget can help. Money Saving Expert have a great budget planning tool for students that should help you get started – check it out here.
  • Think carefully about which student bank account you open. Weigh up the value of any freebies on offer against the best 0% overdraft deals to make sure you’re not being ripped off. Whilst we often council against taking on debt, interest-free overdrafts are considered one of the lowest-risk ways to borrow and can provide a useful buffer. Just stay within your limit and have a plan for paying it all back.
  • Max out on discounts. Grab every student discount you can – but also think about other options like supermarket points cards and bank account cashback deals. This is free money that can quickly add up to pay for essentials like food.
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Master of the budgets. Provider of the tips. Author and owner of Dumbfunded.co.uk.