How postgrads can get a government student loan

Yayyy more ways to owe people money.

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Thank the lord! Now you can add to that pile of money you have to return from whence it came. Isn't higher education wonderful?

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On a happier note, this is the first year that you can apply for a student loan for postgraduate study, which may give more students the opportunity to apply for master's qualifications.

Thanks to those lovely folks at the government you can now get a £10,000 student loan to cover another year of toil. Unfortunately, this means you're probably still going to have to cover the majority of your living costs. Yay.

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If you're starting a postgraduate course in September 2016, you can apply for funding from late June.

You can apply if:

- Your course is a taught or research master’s.

- You are studying at a university or college or via distance learning.

- Your course is one or two years long (or part-time equivalent).

- You are under 60 at the start of the first academic year of your course.

- You don't already have a master's degree or higher qualification.

- You normally live in England (though if you're an EU national hoping to study in England you may also be able to successfully apply).

Do all of these sound like you? You, my friend, are in for a frugal-but-not-financially-crippling year.

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Or two years. But, unfortunately, if your course is two years you'll only get £5,000 per year. The same is true if you study a one year course part-time. If you study a two year course part-time then you'll only receive £5,000 for the first two years. There's no way around it, £10,000 is your lot.

The not-so-fun bit

Sadly, this isn't the eighties and you aren't a baby boomer. Unless you're very unfortunate with your working life, you're going to end up paying at least a decent proportion of this money back.

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Repayments don't start until you're earning at least £21,000. So if your MA doesn't turn out to be the money-spinner that you'd hoped, you're not going to be choked by debt as well as despair.

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As the loan is new, no repayments will be taken until April 2019. After that, full-time students will start paying the money back from the April after they finish. If you studied part-time, your repayments will start the April two years after your course started or the April after you leave, whichever comes first.

So if you start a one year course in September 2017 and study full-time, you'll start paying back your loan in April 2019 (as long as you're earning enough). If you start the same course at the same time but study part-time, your repayments will start in April 2020 (again, as long as you're bringing in over £21,000).

Now for the even less fun bit

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Interest. One of those things you kind of hoped was an adulthood myth, like tuna sandwiches or steam irons.

Yup, you do have to pay interest on this loan. The good news? You'll be paying the same amount of interest as anyone who started their undergrad in September 2012 or later currently pays on their original student loan. In case you're INTERESTed, that's RPI (Retail Price Index) plus 3% of the amount you owe. RPI is just a small increase from inflation, which you might know as the small annual increase to your phone bill.

In actual words, this means you'll be giving away 6% of what you earn each month over the threshold of £21,000.

It may not feel like it, but you're getting a (comparatively) reasonable deal. If you choose to take out a career development loan with your bank, the interest is likely to be 9-10%, you'll have 1-5 years to pay it back and you have to start paying it back regardless of your income.

I already have a ridiculous amount of student debt. How screwed am I?

Not actually that screwed. If you started your undergrad September 2012 or later, you'll pay 9% of any money you earn above the £21,000 threshold. So if you add the two loans together, you'll pay 15% of any money you're earning above £21,000.

If that doesn't make sense, here are some actual money numbers.

Source: Student Finance England

Yeah... £10,000 just isn't going to cover it for me.

There are other ways some students can secure funding. If you have a disability (including a mental health problem or learning difficulty like dyslexia) you may be able to get a Disabled Students’ Allowance which doesn't have to be paid back.

There are also charities, trusts and societies which offer funding to help some students (often based on your background). For more information on other forms of postgraduate funding you can check out the government guidelines.

Once applications open search for postgraduate Loans at www.gov.uk/studentfinance

Feature image: Flickr/ GotCredit

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