June 20, 2024

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Student Finance Maintenance Loans 2024

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How to apply for a Maintenance Loan

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Credit: Violet Giddings – Flickr

Students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales can all apply for a Maintenance Loan online or by post. If you’re from Scotland, there’s no postal option, so you’ll have to apply online.

That said, whether you apply online or by post, you may still need to send some supporting evidence in the mail. This is likely to be things like passports, birth certificates and so on.

We’ve got a full guide to applying for Student Finance (including Maintenance Loans). But if you’re just after a link to your funding body, we’ve got you covered too.

Remember that you apply for funding from the part of the UK you ordinarily live in, not the part you’ll be studying in.

All clear? Great. Here are the links to apply for a Student Loan from each of the UK’s four funding bodies:

How to apply for a Current Year Income Assessment

If applying for Student Finance for the 2023/24 academic year, you’ll need to provide your household income from the 2021/22 tax year (6th April 2021 – 5th April 2022).

But if you think your household income for the current tax year (6th April 2023 – 5th April 2024) will be significantly lower than in the 2021/22 tax year, you can apply for what’s known as a Current Year Income Assessment. This will entitle you to larger Maintenance Loan payments throughout the entire academic year.

At the end of the 2023/24 tax year, you’ll need to submit further evidence to prove what your household income was. If it was lower than expected, you may get some extra Maintenance Loan. But if it’s higher than you estimated, you’ll have to repay some straight away.

Here are the criteria for a Current Income Assessment in each country:

And a heads up if your household income was previously above the maximum threshold. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, it needs to drop below this mark for you to become eligible for extra funding.

Similarly, across the UK, if your household income is already below the minimum threshold, you won’t be eligible for a larger Student Loan. This is because you already receive the maximum amount.

How do you repay your Student Loan?

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 100 times. Despite the flaws in the Student Finance system, the repayment terms for Maintenance Loans (and Student Loans overall) are fairly generous.

You’ll make repayments towards your Maintenance Loan and Tuition Fee Loan together as one Student Loan. So when we discuss the repayment terms of Maintenance Loans, remember it applies across the board.

We have a guide to Student Loan repayments that explains it all in a lot more detail. But, for now, we’ll answer a few of the most common questions students have about repaying Maintenance Loans.

What is the interest rate on Student Loans?

For students from England and Wales, the interest rate on Student Loans usually varies depending on your salary and whether you’re a student or a graduate. However, in response to rising inflation, in January 2024 the interest rate is currently 7.6% for everyone on Plan 2 and Plan 5 loans.

For students from Northern Ireland and Scotland, the interest rate on Student Loans is currently 6.25%.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the interest rates on Student Loans change each year based on inflation. For a full explainer of how it works, read our Student Loan repayments explainer.

How and when do you start repaying your Student Loan?

No matter where you’re from in the UK, you only start repaying your Student Loan from the April after you’ve graduated. And even then you’ll need to be earning over the repayment threshold for your type of loan.

The current repayment thresholds for UK graduates are:

  • Students from England who start on or after 1st August 2023 (Plan 5 loans) – £25,000 a year (£2,083 a month or £480 a week) before tax
  • Students from England who started before 1st August 2023 (Plan 2 loans) – £27,295 a year (£2,274 a month or £524 a week) before tax
  • Students from Wales (Plan 2 loans) – £27,295 a year (£2,274 a month or £524 a week) before tax
  • Students from Northern Ireland (Plan 1 loans) – £22,015 (£1,834 a month, £423 a week) before tax
  • Students from Scotland (Plan 4 loans) – £27,660 (£2,305 a month, £532 a week) before tax.

Like the interest rates on Student Loans, the repayment thresholds can change each year. Check out our Student Loan repayments guide for more info.

In terms of the ‘how’, most graduates won’t need to worry about actively making repayments.

Unless you’re self-employed, your Student Loan repayments will automatically be deducted from your salary in the same way that tax is. You won’t have to manually repay anything.

If you are self-employed, you’ll need to make Student Loan repayments as part of your self-assessment tax return.

When is your Student Loan debt cancelled?

A major positive of the Student Loan’s repayment terms is that no matter how much you’ve paid back, the government cancels the balance after a number of years.

If you’re from England, Scotland or Wales, your loan is written off 30 years after you first become eligible to repay (the April after you graduated). If you’re from England and start your course after 1st August 2023, it’ll be 40 years before your loan is written off.

Northern Irish students have their loans cancelled after 25 years.

Across the UK, your loan will be written off if you have to claim a disability-related benefit and can no longer work (or if you die).

What to do if your Maintenance Loan isn’t enough

woman looking in purse frowning

Credit: Pormezz – Shutterstock

Every year we run our National Student Money Survey. And, every year, we find that the Maintenance Loan isn’t big enough.

Our latest survey found the average monthly shortfall between Maintenance Loans and student living costs is £582. As such, nearly two in three (64%) students in the survey said their Maintenance Loan isn’t enough.

So, sadly, you’ll likely need some extra funding while at uni.

If your Maintenance Loan doesn’t cover your student living costs, here are your options for extra funding:

  1. Use your interest-free overdraft

    Whenever students ask us what’s the best student bank account, our first piece of advice is always the same. We suggest looking for the ones with the biggest interest-free overdrafts.

    Most major banks offer a student account. And, in most cases, they offer an interest-free overdraft as part of the deal. This means that, unlike most bank accounts, you can dip into your overdraft without having to worry about any charges.

    You only need to worry about climbing out of your overdraft once you’ve graduated. But, even then, you shouldn’t have to do it straight away.

    Most student accounts become graduate bank accounts once you leave uni. These have interest-free overdrafts too, but the size steadily decreases over two or three years.

    So, if your Maintenance Loan isn’t enough, your student overdraft is one of the safest sources of extra money.

  2. Ask your parents for money

    We’re not keen on Maintenance Loans being tied to household income. But the fact is they generally are.

    One of our biggest gripes is that we don’t feel the funding bodies are clear enough about expecting your parents to contribute if you don’t get the maximum Maintenance Loan.

    If this is news to you, calculate the difference between your Maintenance Loan and the maximum amount available to a student in your living situation. The figure you’re left with is what the government ‘expects’ your parents to contribute each year.

    Of course, plenty of parents who are expected to contribute are unable to. At the very least, many can’t contribute as much as they’re expected to. So, the difficult conversation of asking them for financial support is even trickier.

    Fortunately, we’ve written a guide to asking your parents for money. We also have a parental contribution calculator to help you work out exactly how much they’re expected to give you.

    And before you think you can hack the system by refusing to provide your funding body with your household income… they’re one step ahead of you. Students who don’t submit this info get the lowest Maintenance Loan by default.

  3. Apply for bursaries, scholarships and grants

    We briefly covered Maintenance Grants above, but there are loads more grants on offer that aren’t funded by the government.

    Most unis (plus loads of charities and businesses) offer grants, bursaries and scholarships. Best of all, none of these need to be repaid!

    While this is free money, there is a catch. Often there are criteria to make sure the money goes to those who need it most, or those who excel in a particular field or discipline (like sports or music).

    Use our list of student bursaries to find out more about some of the most common types of funding in this area. Or, if none apply to you, check out our guide to funding sources and discover some for yourself.

    And if you think there’s no way you’ll be eligible for anything, think again. As these weird bursaries, scholarships and grants show, there’s funding out there for almost anyone and everything!

  4. Get a part-time job

    Getting a part-time job is never as easy as some people make it out to be. But it’s not impossible.

    According to our National Student Money Survey, 56% of students hold down a part-time job while at uni. This makes it the most popular source of income, alongside parental contributions.

    Whether it’s becoming a sales assistant in a shop, working at a bar or even trying your hand as a film and TV extra, there are countless part-time jobs for students that let you balance work and study.

    If you have the time to work alongside your studies, see our guide to finding a job at uni. Plus, check out the best-paid part-time jobs.

  5. Other ways to make money

    It’s easy to believe that a part-time job is the only way to earn extra money at uni. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

    There are hundreds of weird and wonderful ways to earn extra cash at uni. Although, in our list of ways to make money quickly, we’ve whittled it down to our top 40. This includes starting your own business, using paid online survey sites and even selling your old stuff.

    There are even some ways to earn free money. That’s the dream.

    The moral of the story is: if you have a brainwave and think you’ve found an ingenious way to make money, go for it! As long as it’s within the confines of the law, of course…

  6. Apply for hardship funds

    If you’re struggling for money, you may be able to apply to your university’s hardship fund.

    Hardship funds are offered by unis to students who are experiencing serious financial difficulties. Usually, but not always, the money doesn’t have to be repaid.

    But when we say “serious financial difficulties”, we mean serious.

    As harsh as it may sound, unis are keen to ensure these funds are only given to those who need them the most. So, you’ll need to prove to them that you really are struggling and haven’t been reckless with your money.

    This could mean handing over bank statements, Student Finance letters and proof of your household income to your uni. This shows that not only are you out of options, but you haven’t frittered away your money on a PlayStation and a new TV.

    You can find out more, including who’s likely to qualify for help, in our full guide to hardship funding.

Should you take out an extra loan as a student?

In tough times, it’s tempting to turn to the easiest and quickest sources of money. Often, these are payday and high-interest loans.

We strongly advise against taking out either of these loans, as the medium- and long-term issues they bring by far outweigh any short-term positives.

The dangers of payday loans are well-publicised. But high-interest loans, such as those offered by private loan companies, don’t receive anywhere near as much scrutiny or criticism. This is despite having many of the same flaws.

We’ve put together a guide on the risks of private student loans, as well as the safer alternatives you can turn to for extra cash. Please read it if you’re considering taking out a high-interest loan!

Campaign to increase Maintenance Loans

At Save the Student, we have consistently called on the government to increase Maintenance Loans.

For too many students, their loans are simply not big enough to cover all of their living costs, leading many to struggle to afford their daily essentials like food.

For students from England especially, Maintenance Loans have fallen far short of keeping up with inflation over recent years, making an already difficult situation even harder.

As Communications Director at Save the Student, campaigning is a big part of my job. Here’s why I see this particular campaign as vital, along with what you can do to help:

Tom Allingham

At Save the Student, we work tirelessly to share our very best tips for making your Maintenance Loan go further. But, ultimately, scrimping and saving can only get you so far if the loan isn’t enough to cover even your basic living costs.

Sadly, our surveys have consistently found that this is the case for far too many students. And, in recent years, the problem has become far worse – particularly in England, where the real-terms value of the loan has shrunk by up to £1,500 after the government failed to increase funding at anywhere near the rate of inflation.

It’s a scandal that students should have their loans cut like this, which is why we’re campaigning for the government to increase funding to catch up with inflation.

We ran a similar petition earlier this year, which received substantial support and was referenced in a Parliamentary debate. However, as the government declined to take any action, and the issue is persisting, we’ve relaunched our campaign.

So please sign and share our petition to force the government to increase Maintenance Loans to catch up with inflation.

Sign our petition »


Worried your Maintenance Loan won’t get you through uni? Check out our list of ways to make money for some inspiration.


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