Unfortunately, many students find themselves in financial difficulty at some point in their time at University. As much as Bristol SU would love to help students in financial difficulty, we don't have money available for students in hardship.
If you are a full time Home student and have a temporary cash flow problem, such as being a bit short on your rent one month, or waiting for funding to come through that’s been delayed, you could apply to the University’s Student Funding Office for a Short Term Emergency Loan. Students can bring in a post-dated cheque or their bank details and, if approved, receive a cash loan of up to £200 the very same time. The University will not charge you interest on the loan, and your payment will be made on a date agreed between you and the University.
For more serious cases, Home and EU students (Undergraduate or Postgraduate) experiencing severe unforeseen financial difficulties that result in them being at risk of leaving the University can apply to the Financial Assistance Fund (FAF), sometimes referred to as a “Hardship Grant”. If your application is successful, the money you are awarded from ALF is in the form of a non-repayable grant. As such, FAF is well worth applying for if you can demonstrate you have a genuine financial shortfall. Help and guidance on completing the application form can be obtained from a Just Ask adviser, or a member of staff in the Funding Office.
If you are a part-time student you can also apply to these funds, although you must be studying at least 50% of the full-time equivalent credits.
If you are an International Student you can apply to the International Hardship Fund for financial assistance. This can be difficult for students to apply to as they must be able to demonstrate that they had sufficient funding in place before commencing their studies. If you did not budget for accommodation for example, the University may deem this as insufficient preparation. Examples of unforeseen circumstances that may be deemed reasonably unexpected could include a sponsor dropping out of their commitments, or a student who has to return home for a family emergency.
We would strongly advise students to seek advice from the funding office or from a Just Ask adviser if they experience financial difficulties.
One thing we would advise students strongly against is seeking “payday loans” – though they can seem like a quick fix, the interest payable on these loans is astonishing. From our experience, students can end up in a worse financial situation by taking out a payday loan. There are many alternatives to these loans, which a Just Ask adviser or the Student Funding Office can help you to explore.
If you find yourself overdrawn with your bank or getting letters from creditors or utility companies, don’t bury your head in the sand – the problem won’t go away and will only get worse, the interest on your debt will add up and you may incur additional charges!
If you have large debt owing to such organisations it is worth trying to negotiate a sensible monthly repayment plan –National Debtline is a great website to look at – they even have sample letters that you can send to your creditors. The Debt Advice Foundation is a national charity who also offer a variety of help.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is also a good place to look in the first instance, they have a really useful section on how young people can deal with debt. You can either seek advice online, over the phone or in person (be warned at peak times it can be difficult to get an appointment).
One way to try and prevent getting into debt in the first place (prevention is always better than cure...) is to draw up a budget (and most importantly) stick to it! There are numerous budget templates available, including the Money Advice Service’s budget planner.