The Fixer: Help with university fees

The Fixer logoHave you been left out of pocket due to poor service or sharp practice? Do you have a money problem that won't go away?

Never fear! The AOL Money Fixer is here to help. This week, she finds solutions for a young would-be doctor dismayed to find that he will not get a government loan to help pay his £9,000 a year tuition fees.

Dear Fixer,
I am not sure if you can help me as it is not due to sharp practice that I have a problem. I do need help, though, and I don't know where else to turn.

The issue is that, having decided to do medicine as a second degree, I have just found out I am not eligible for a student tuition fee loan to cover the course fees of £9,000 a year. And I urgently need to find some other form of funding, otherwise there's no way that I can do the course.

As I am currently working, having completed my first degree a few years ago, I am hoping to pay for the first year myself. The fifth year is also not a problem as the NHS will pay my fees. I will need to borrow to cover the cost in the second, third and fourth years, though.

I am hoping that, despite tuition fee loans being unavailable to people taking second degrees, the fact that it is a medical degree with a more or less guaranteed job at the end of it will help me to find the finance I need.

But I'm still very worried that a lack of funding will prevent me realising my dream. I know that banks offered career development loans to help second degree students in the past, but I think most of these products have been scrapped in the last few years.

Do you know if there are any banks still offering loans of this kind, or whether there is any other financial help available for people like me?

I would be very grateful for any advice you can give me.
A McCoy, Sheffield

Dear Mr McCoy,
You are right that students taking medicine as a second degree are not eligible for a tuition fee loan, meaning that it is indeed up to you to find the money to pay your fees in the first four years.

As you have the money set aside to cover your fees in the first year, this leaves you with £27,000 to find over the next four years - not an easy task for a full-time student!

The good news, however, is that, while most banks have withdrawn their career development loans, you can still get a loan of this kind from certain lenders such as Barclays and The Co-operative Bank.

Barclays, for example, offers career development loans of up to £10,000 over five years to people taking courses that will "enhance job skills" at an APR of 9.9%. The APR you pay will however be closer to 5% or 6% because the Skills Funding Agency pays the interest on the loan while you're studying and for one month afterwards, bring the APR over the lifetime of the loan down.

Clearly, this will not cover your tuition fees for the full three years you require funding, but it is a good start. Other possibilities include applying for grants from charitable trusts specialising in helping those studying for a second degree in medicine.

Organisations of this kind include the Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust, which provides grants of between £300 and £1,000 to graduates over the age of 24 with a 1st class or 2:1 honours degree, and the BMA Charities Trust Fund, which offers grants of up to £2,000 a year to second and third year medical students with debts totalling more then £2,500.

Depending on your financial situation, you may also qualify for the NHS Bursary Scheme or for your university's hardship fund, which distributes money provided by the government to help students struggling to cope financially (although this money cannot be used to pay your tuition fees).

For more information about career development loans, contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.

Good luck!
The Fixer

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