Why should the bank of Mum and Dad bail out students?
The A-level season is in full swing at the moment, as teenagers across the land try to get the grades they need to get into their first choice of university.
Most will have applied for their student loans already but may have to rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad for their day-to-day living expenses.
While most students are eligible for a loan to cover the cost of tuition fees, which can be as much as £9,000 a year, maintenance loans for living costs are calculated on a sliding scale, depending on your circumstances.
In the 2013/14 academic year, a student living at home will receive up to £4,375 a year, those living away from home outside London will be entitled to a maximum of £5,500 a year, while the figure will be up to £7,675 for students living away from home in London.
In reality, many students will receive much less than this because the maintenance loan depends on your household income. For those students living at home whose parents' household income is £58,195, the maximum maintenance loan is just £2,843 a year. For those studying and living outside London, this rises to £3,575 if the household income is more than £62,125. Students studying in London but living out will be entitled to a maximum of £4,988 if their parents earn more than £69,745.
A maintenance grant is also available to help with living expenses – but is aimed at low-income families. If your household income is less than £25,000, the maximum grant is £3,354 a year from September 2013.
Maintenance grants are not available for anyone whose household income is more than £42,611. According to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, average annual earnings for full-time workers in the UK is now £26,500, so it doesn't take much for a household to be above the maintenance grant threshold.
This means that many students have to rely on their parents to bail them out – particularly while casual and part-time jobs are so thin on the ground.
My daughter, Amy, is studying biomedical sciences at University College London. For the last academic year, she received a maintenance loan of £4,988 and a tuition loan of £9,000. But her room in halls of residence in central London cost more than £5,000. We had no choice but to pay for her accommodation, leaving her with just under £100 a week to pay for living expenses – food, travel, clothes and books. She has managed to save a few hundred pounds, which she will put towards next year's accommodation – a shared flat which will cost her – helped out by us – £7,200 a year.
My son, Joseph, is studying English literature at Sussex and received a smaller loan of £3,300 a year, as he was studying outside London. Meanwhile, the rent we pay for his room in Brighton is £4,356 a year plus bills. He has about £55 a week to live on, so we also help out with buying clothes and books, paying for his mobile phone and his travel home.
There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of years about the high cost of tuition fees, but what about the pressure inadequate maintenance loans put on many parents?
I'd be interested to hear from other parents who face this burden.