Student Loans from the government
Student Loans can help you with the costs of higher education. They are issued by Student Finance NI, a service managed by the Student Loans Company in partnership with Student Finance Northern Ireland and the government.
The interest on Student Loans is linked to the rate of inflation, so in real terms what you repay will be broadly the same as what you borrowed. There are two types of loan available - you can take out either or both:
- a student loan to cover your tuition fees - called the ‘Student Loan for Tuition Fees’
- a student loan to help with your accommodation and other living costs - called the ‘Student Loan for Maintenance’
Student Loan for Tuition Fees
Studying in the UK
All eligible full-time higher education students entering higher education can get a Student Loan for Tuition Fees. The loan will cover any amount up to the full amount you’re charged for tuition fees.
For 2020-2021 this will be up to £4,395 for students studying within Northern Ireland, and up to £9,250 for students studying in the rest of the UK.
The Student Loan for Tuition Fees is paid directly to your university or college by Student Finance NI.
Studying in the Republic of Ireland
If you normally live in Northern Ireland and are currently studying or starting a higher education course in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) in the 2020-2021 academic year, you may be eligible for a loan to cover the full cost of the student contribution charge, which is €3,000.
If you started your course in RoI before September 2013, you will continue to be eligible for a non-means tested non-repayable grant to cover the student contribution charge.
Studying at a private institution
If you study at a private institution, you should be aware that that you may not receive the full tuition fee loan support to cover your tuition fees.
You will be responsible for funding the difference in the additional cost of your tuition fees. You should find out what tuition fees are charged by the private institution and what tuition fee loan support is available from your local Student Finance NI office before you start the course.
Student Loan for Maintenance
The Student Loan for Maintenance is there to help towards your accommodation and other living costs while you’re studying.
All eligible full-time students can get a Student Loan for Maintenance, but the exact amount you can borrow will depend on several factors, including your household income, where you live while you’re studying and whether you’re in the final year of your course. It’s also affected by any help you get through the Maintenance Grant (though not the Special Support Grant).
The basic student loan for Northern Ireland students is:
- £3,750 if you're living and attending college in Northern Ireland
- £6,780 if the course is in London
- £5,770 if you’re overseas
- £4,840 if you live elsewhere
You can take out around 75 per cent of the maximum Student Loan for Maintenance regardless of your household income - this is called the 'non income assessed' part of the loan. Whether you get the remaining 25 per cent - the 'income assessed' part of the loan - depends on your household income.
To qualify for a Student Loan for Maintenance, you must also be aged under 60 when you start your course.
Your Education Authority will assess your application and decide which rate you are eligible to receive.
Student Finance NI will usually pay the money into your bank account in three instalments - one at the start of each term.
Repaying Student Loans
Your first repayment will be due in the April after you leave your course. You’ll repay nine per cent of your earnings over £19,390 (or the monthly or weekly equivalents). You can repay more if you want to clear your loan faster. The more you earn, the quicker you repay the loan. For more information on how and when to replay your loan, see:
Interest on Student Loans
Student Loans accrue interest from the date they are paid out, up until the date when they are repaid in full. The interest rate for student loans usually applies from 1 September to 31 August each year.
Effect on other financial help
If you get income-related benefits or tax credits, the Student Loan for Maintenance will be counted as income when working out what you’re entitled to. This will be based on the maximum amount of loan you're entitled to borrow - even if you choose not to take it out.
If your circumstances change
If your circumstances change, for example, if your income goes up or down, it's important to tell your Education Authority office.
How to apply
To find out how to apply for a Student Loan see Applying for student finance.