Money Matters! Some top tips from UofG’s Financial Aid Manager
I believe (and hope!) that Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest’. The long haul of most research degrees, however, means that some time can pass before we see evidence of this! Keeping on top of finances is a vital component of student wellbeing and allows us to concentrate on the more important parts of our PGR experience. The University offers a number of services designed to help with money matters, including the Financial Aid Team who manage financial support for eligible research students. Financial Aid Manager, Alan McConnell, talked to me about the work his team does, and why it’s so important for PGRs to be aware of the funds available.
What advice would you give to current PGRs?
I would say to read up on the Financial Aid webpages to see if there is any funding which is suitable for you. The Hardship Fund is generally open to all fully registered students and can provide one-off emergency support under certain circumstances. The Discretionary & Childcare Fund is available to UK students and can help towards living and childcare costs.
What common questions do you receive?
Often whether Financial Aid is available to help with tuition fees. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Our funds assist with living costs only. For tuition fees, provided you can pay them in full by the end of each academic year, the Student Collections team are flexible and can negotiate payment plans to suit your individual circumstances. This needs to be set up via the Student Collections team as early as possible to allow instalment options to be discussed.
Which available resources do you think postgraduate researchers should be making better use of?
The crisis loan facility is an invaluable service open to all fully registered students and can help cover urgent bills. Cash loans of up to £250 are available and carry no interest; the only condition is that it’s paid back by an agreed date. Also, any student with accommodation debt (University accommodation only) from previous academic sessions should get in touch with the Financial Aid Team to ask about the GSV Fund. We also administer the Federal Loans for American students. Carol Barnett from our team is the designated US Loans Administrator who can assist with this.
How soon should students experiencing financial difficulties start applying for financial aid?
As quickly as possible, but definitely read the fund guidelines online to ensure you are eligible. If in any doubt regarding your eligibility, get in touch with us.
The University provides paid opportunities such as internships, and research students often undertake part-time work. Is this something you would recommend?
Financial aid alone will never be enough to cover a student’s full living costs, and the majority of applicants for the fund do tend to undertake part-time employment to help make ends meet. The exception to this would be American students funded via the Federal Loans, which tend to cover full living costs. These students would still be able to undertake employment if they wish, provided their visa allows this.
Are questions from students regarding general finance management welcomed? Who would you consider to be the best first point of contact for students concerned about their finances?
The Financial Aid Team does not offer a financial advisory service. If a funding application requires a follow-up meeting with a member of the team, we can sometimes offer additional guidance. Should a student be identified who we feel would benefit from advice on budgeting etc., we would direct them to the SRC Advice Centre, Citizens Advice or the Money Advice Centre.
The best initial contact for a student really depends on their specific circumstances. However, it is important that students don’t suffer in silence and reach out to at least one of the various support teams available. In general, if a UK student is worried about meeting living costs or an EU/International student is facing an unforeseen financial emergency, I would recommend they look into Financial Aid online, and get in touch if they have further enquiries.
What would you say is the most important reason for research students to be aware of available financial aid?
The single most important reason is that the funds we administer can help make the difference between being able to meet your living costs and not. We receive excellent feedback from students every year and are delighted to be able to help as many students as we do.
You can contact the Financial Aim Team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and get in touch @UofG_PGRblog if you have any questions or tips on how you manage your finances!