If you are an adult student and you are reading this blog post, it is probable that you are researching funding options for higher education. In such case, all of us here at AssignmentGiant are sorry to hear about it. It has been less than 25 years since the United Kingdom did not need students to pay tuition to attend universities. Even grants to assist with covering the cost of housing and day-to-day living expenditures were made available by the local authorities. Then, in 1998, the government passed the Teaching and Higher Education Act, which established an annual tuition cap of £1000. By the year 2010, that limit had reached £3,210. By the year 2016, it had reached £9,000. And the total as of right now is 9,250 pounds. Prospective students in today’s society confront the reality that they may graduate with an overwhelming amount of debt. A generation ago, the sheer magnitude of that debt would have been inconceivable to consider.
Tuition costs at universities are now something that can’t be avoided unless one possesses a time machine. Finding financial support for higher education as an adult student is a challenge that members of your generation will likely have no choice but to face and conquer.
This article is written with the intention of guiding you through the various funding opportunities available to older students. It is more than a straightforward compilation of the mature information regarding student finances that is already available. It is more than just a basic map of awful choices that lie between a “rock” and a “hard place.” When you are thinking about how to pay for college as an mature student, we hope that this essay will inspire you to think of inventive solutions.
What is a mature student?
Students who begin their studies for an undergraduate or graduate degree more than a year after they have stopped attending school full-time are considered mature students. However, postgraduate education for higher degrees has a tendency to not recognize older students at all as a category of student at all. When viewed through the lens of the institution, there are no postgraduate students who are mature.
Providing this clarification seems like it would be beneficial to do. It places the question of how much money to give to mature students right alongside other key life and financial choices. Among these may be the acquisition of a vehicle, the taking out of a mortgage on a house, or even the beginning of a family. However, when it comes to these other choices, we have a tendency to exercise greater acumen. It’s possible that we’ll engage in some tough bargaining with the auto dealership. We are open to the idea of moving to a less expensive neighborhood or purchasing a more modest home. We might put off the idea of starting a family until the middle or later stages of our careers. The philosophy behind this is responsive and informed. We consider our individual situations, priorities, and aspirations, and then act in a manner that is in our own best interests. However, the application of this line of thinking to the topic of student financing for adults is quite uncommon.
The following four sections are designed to cover all the possible mature student finance options that might be open to you. They include, we hope, some ideas that you’ve not heard about or have never considered. As you read them, you’ll get a better idea of what student finance for mature students might mean, for you. Let’s see if we can get you closer to achieving your higher education ambitions!
Option 1: You pay in full for the course
We’re not going to lie. If goods and services are consumed, they need to be paid for. University tuition is no different.
Government student loan
For many older students, the government’s own student loan remains the simplest and most common choice. Adult students beginning their first college degree program receive the same treatment as students returning to school.
The total cost of the tuition is covered by the loans. The Retail Price Index serves as a link for interest (i.e. the basic rate of inflation). Once your income reaches a particular level (currently £26,575), the loans become due. The precise terms and conditions change over time, so check with Student Finance England for the most recent version (or their relevant counterpart in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland). To determine the financial impact of taking out these loans for you, use their convenient mature student financing calculator.
Depending on your circumstances, you might potentially be eligible for means-tested maintenance loans. To learn more about those, visit the same websites. Keep in mind that institutions are accustomed to answering questions about student loans. Make advantage of their appropriate departments if you have any questions.
There may be additional methods that are simpler but less discussed for privately affording education as a mature student. These may be options for other people. After more consideration, you could conclude that selling something to make money for your tuition is the easiest way to cover the expense. An exploration of the attic can turn up priceless heirlooms hidden away there that are in demand in other parts of the world. You could come to the conclusion that the postgraduate courses you decided to pursue made a greater impact on your life than the purchase of the car you made some time ago. It’s possible that the next phase of your life will involve putting your house up for sale and enrolling in school in a less expensive section of the country. Would you part with some of your grandmother’s jewelry in exchange for the opportunity to get a doctorate? When stated in that manner, the transaction appears to be quite straightforward. Be aware that you can be subject to paying capital gains tax if you make the decision to sell anything in order to bring in money for your mature student expenses.
Alternately, you may give saving money on expenses another thought and see if that helps. If, like the typical Londoner, you spend £2500 a year in pubs, you should seriously consider giving up drinking in order to save yourself a fourth of that amount. One study found that the average annual expenditure on beauty services among Brits was £4,500. If you are one of them, you should think carefully about whether or not you want to spend that money on attending college as a mature student. If you do both of these things, you’ll be almost there and won’t need any loans.
It’s possible that you don’t have the necessary funds for your tuition fees due to the way you now spend your money or the things you could sell to make up the difference. In that case, you might want to consider having a conversation about your financial situation with dependable members of your family or close friends. It’s possible that your parents, siblings, or older relatives will be eager to contribute to your educational endeavors through the “Bank of Mum and Dad.” Be aware of the Seven-Year Rule if you have older relatives who are thinking about helping you out with a financial present. If the gift is still in existence after seven years, it may be subject to inheritance tax.
If your immediate family is unable to assist you, you should potentially go to your professional network for assistance. A portion of the cost of obtaining certain occupational qualifications may be deducted from taxable income. If this is the case, then the actual cost of them may be significantly lower than you currently estimate. Additionally, numerous workplaces take pleasure in facilitating their employees’ pursuit of further education. MBA programs offered by colleges dedicated to finance are among the most sought after. Your views regarding pursuing higher education should probably be discussed with either your line manager or the department of Human Resources.
Consider, as a second option, taking your postgraduate class with the help of the general public. If you asked a big number of people, would they be willing to put up a modest sum of money apiece to assist you in moving on with your plans? The use of online crowdfunding sites such as Patreon and Kickstarter by adult students is becoming increasingly common as a method of acquiring financial support. They are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to student loans and the financial support provided by parents. Any crowdfunding effort that hopes to be successful will, of course, require some knowledge of social media. Research subjects that are charismatic or people who are particularly receptive to political ideas that are well-defended tend to do very well in research. A captivating personal narrative and the promise of engaging content delivered on a regular basis to members are two other ways to garner interest.
Option 2: You get a bursary or grant
In the previous part of this article, we discussed various methods for securing personal funds for your college education. There are still ways for the government to pay for your university education, despite the fact that the chances to do so are rapidly dwindling. If you are a resident of Scotland and decide to earn your first degree in Scotland, the Scottish government will cover the cost of your tuition.
Research Council funding
Students pursuing a master’s degree in the UK can be eligible for funding from one of the seven Research Councils. However, in terms of the real world, this is highly improbable due to the fact that the majority of their expenditures for postgraduate education go toward PhD programs. It is in your best interest to verify with the institution that you are considering attending regarding Research Council funding and explore the likelihood that it will be available. This is true regardless of the higher degree that you are contemplating pursuing.
One piece of advise I can give you is this: if you are a mature student and you have other options for supporting your education, do not disclose them! Universities are trying to enroll as many students as they can, but they are also aware that there is a limited amount of funds available from the Research Council. Unofficially, they may decide to focus their efforts on helping applicants who have a very low chance of being able to continue their education if they do not receive that money.
University bursaries and scholarships
In the meanwhile, it is quite possible that there are funds available in other areas that might potentially support some or all of your mature student expenses. The majority of educational institutions in the UK provide financial assistance in the form of bursaries or scholarships. It is important to inquire about these matters at the earliest possible time. Some require a certain minimum annual income, while others are won in contests. The sooner you learn about them, the more time you will have to compile the necessary resources for your application.
Inquire about possible sources of financial aid at the school you are considering attending. But don’t leave it at that. You can find information on bursaries, grants, and scholarships offered by non-university organizations, which you may be eligible to apply for, in the reference section of your local library.
You will quickly realize that it is in your best interest to explore your options because the majority of these accessible funding sources, including funding from the Research Council, are associated with particular universities. If you are willing to be flexible about what you study and where you study it, you will increase the likelihood that you will be able to secure some or all of your mature student expenses.
Studying in another country is one of the most straightforward approaches to take, although it is frequently disregarded as an option. The uncertainty caused by Brexit has made studying in Europe less appealing. However, if you hold dual citizenship and are still qualified for home costs in Europe, expanding your search beyond the United Kingdom can be financially beneficial for you. The cost of an equivalent master’s degree at the Sorbonne in Paris is around one-half of what it would be in London. You won’t have any trouble finding classes taught in English at any of Europe’s many colleges, so don’t let the fact that there are language obstacles stop you from pursuing your next degree on the continent.
You could also think about looking in the United States and Canada as an alternative. Even though university tuition fees in the United States and Canada are typically higher than those in the United Kingdom, educational institutions in the United States and Canada have a longer heritage of receiving charitable donations. This leads into increased prospects for scholarship funding. Some are even set aside exclusively for students arriving from the United Kingdom or other European countries. If there isn’t much competition from other applicants, getting one of these positions might not be too difficult.
Even if moving temporarily isn’t a possibility for you, you still have the option of researching institutions in other countries that provide online degree programs. The lesson to be learned from this is to maintain adaptability and think creatively.
Option 3: You work to pay less (or none) of the fees
You are unable to secure funding from private sources, and you have been unsuccessful in your attempts to obtain funding from public sources for your mature student expenses. But despite this, you are dead set on enrolling in a postgraduate program. Do you have any other choices or opportunities at your disposal? The correct response is “yes”
Employing yourself at the college or institution of your choice can frequently result in significant reductions in the cost of tuition or even in full reimbursement of that expense. The most common types of assistantships include research assistantships (RAs) and graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs). These awards typically cover a sizeable amount, and in some cases even the entirety, of the recipient’s educational costs. These positions can provide significant teaching experience that will put you in good stead for your first lecturing position as well if you are thinking about pursuing a career in academia once you have completed your education.
Employment at the university that’s for pay
However, RAs and GTAs aren’t the only available options. At least one of London’s educational establishments offers tuition discounts to students who are willing to work part-time in the college library, while other institutions actively seek out responsible postgraduates to serve as hall wardens for their housing facilities. Some programs, particularly those leading into the fields of health and mental health, include paid job experience as an integral part of the curriculum. Others, such as certain Doctor of Psychology degrees in Clinical Psychology, come with tuition covered in full because it is assumed that the student will work for the National Health Service while they are pursuing their degree.
Also of relevance is the fact that many colleges provide their employees with significant reductions in the cost of course fees. For instance, Imperial College in London provides its employees with the opportunity to have their tuition reduced by as much as two-thirds. Postgraduate students are increasingly taking advantage of in-house employee reductions on tuition fees, which are rarely promoted and can be found at many university campuses. You can find postgraduate students working behind the administrative offices.
Option 4: Consider if you really need a degree
In this final phase, we take a moment to contemplate whether or not you truly require the degree that you are now taking into consideration. Higher education has been given unprecedented access to a wider knowledge base thanks to the proliferation of internet use over the past two decades. Free online access can be had at any time to a wide variety of collegiate-level lectures and reading materials. The COVID pandemic has resulted in academic conferences being moved to Zoom, which offers participation that is frequently free or available at a cost that is a fraction of what it would be at a traditional conference. There has never been a time in history with options for self-directed learning quite like the present day.
There is a wealth of short courses offered by universities, online courses, and study holidays available to you if you are the type of student who requires a tutor to guide, debate, and direct their ideas and reading. If this is the type of learner you are, you are in luck. It’s possible that these will better satisfy the requirements of many potential mature students than a conventional degree will.
It is becoming more common to get together with a group of friends and hire a private tutor in order to engage in learning that is either informal or semi-formal. This can even result in financial gains for you. Informal learning opportunities are booming on platforms like Meetup, particularly in lockdown, and this is due in large part to the fact that Meetup is a tried and true method of bringing together people who share a common interest for a specific reason.
Organizations that provide a learning environment similar to a university have also been growing. ALT-MFA programs, which are designed to be equivalent to university-based Masters in Fine Art programs, have garnered such a high level of respect in the field of fine art education that entries from students who have completed them are now accepted into prestigious graduate art competitions. They are gradually gaining a reputation as legitimate educational institutions in the field of art.
If you are thinking of getting both a master’s degree and a doctorate, there is one more option that you should consider, and that is the potential of skipping degrees. This is something that should not be ignored. Work experience that is pertinent to your chosen field, as well as a publication in that field, can frequently be sound arguments for skipping a master’s degree and going straight onto a PhD (where some, if not all, of the same master’s-level modules can be taken informally or as a requirement for Research Training).
At the doctorate level, on the other hand, there is the woefully underutilized PhD by Publication route that is offered at many universities at a significantly lower cost than regular PhDs. This route may prove to be the ideal and most cost-effective choice for students who are particularly self-motivated. The most unorthodox financial savings opportunities for older students can be discovered in this section for those who are willing to take the risk. However, even those who are more cautious should keep in mind that this is not a situation in which there are only two possible outcomes. You could, for instance, set a goal of publishing six articles of sufficient length to be evaluated by your peers and submit them for consideration for a PhD by publication. However, after completing the first one or two of these publications, you could come to the conclusion that a PhD that is supervised would be more suitable for you after all. At this point, those publications have a good chance of being accepted in lieu of an MA, or they might be utilized as the basis for chapters that could form the backbone of a PhD thesis.
As a mature student, you have numerous options available to you in terms of how you might privately pay your university education. If you are adaptable, you can consider “shopping around” for the academic programs and universities that offer the most attractive financial aid packages. If you take a job at a university, you may be eligible for tuition savings that are only available to employees of the institution. You may want to give some thought to the topic of whether or not you absolutely have to get a degree in any field at all.
We hope that you have gained at least one new way of thinking about mature student finances as a result of reading this post, regardless of where you are in the process of selecting and funding your degree as a mature student. We want to wish you the very best of luck in all of your future academic endeavors, no matter what decision you come to or what path you ultimately pursue!