College funding for disabled students

Further education is any study you do after finishing your secondary education but it does not include undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

You can do a further education course at schools and academies with sixth forms, colleges or specialist colleges.

In England, your education is free until you are 19. You can get bursaries and funds that support your study, like books, transport and even accommodation and meals.

After you are 19 you may have to pay for your course. There are loans, bursaries and grants that can help you with costs. You may not have to pay fees if:

  • it's your first Level 2 or Level 3 course
  • it's an entry level course in English or maths (levels 1 to 3)
  • you're on benefits (the college may be able to offer free or reduced price courses)

What qualification levels mean (GOV.UK)

Check with your chosen college if you will need to pay fees.

Further education courses and funding (GOV.UK)

Funding further education for disabled students (Disability Rights UK)

Warning Wales has different funding to England

There is a different system for further education funding in Wales.

Student finance for further education (GOV.WALES)

If you have an Education, Health and Care plan

If you have an Education, Health and Care plan (also known as EHC plan or EHCP), you can get funding for further education up to age 25.

After you turn 19, your funding will depend on things like:

  • the needs and outcomes described in your EHCP
  • your progress and if the course builds on previous learning
  • if your chosen college or course suits your needs and is 'efficient use of resources'

You may also need to think about funding for things like course materials, books and travel.

What is an EHCP? (contact.org.uk)

Advanced Learner Loan for course fees

If you're 19 or older, you might qualify for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover course fees.

The amount of money you get depends on the type of course you're doing, your course fees and the maximum loan available for your course.

Advanced Learner Loan: what you'll get (GOV.UK)

The loan covers the tuition fees for a range of courses, including:

  • A-levels
  • general qualifications
  • work (vocational) qualifications, such as BTECs (ucas.com) or apprenticeships
  • access to higher education diplomas

Money Advice Service has useful information on Advanced Learner Loans as well as advice on what to consider.

Apply for an Advanced Learner Loan (GOV.UK)

Repaying the loan

You will have to pay back this loan when you've finished your course and you're earning more than £25,725 a year. How much you pay depends on your weekly or monthly wage. It's usually a small amount.

How much you repay on your student loan (GOV.UK)

Warning

Repaying Advanced Learner Loans

If you go to university, you will not have to pay back this loan.

Repaying Advanced Learner Loans (GOV.UK)

Loan Bursary Fund

If your application for an Advanced Learner Loan is approved, you can apply for money from the Loan Bursary Fund to help pay for the cost of:

  • accommodation and travel
  • course materials and equipment
  • childcare
  • classroom assistance, such as notetakers or sign language interpreters

Apply for Loan Bursary Fund

College accommodation

You may be able to get help with the cost of term-time accommodation if you're studying a course that's far from your home.

There are 2 funds available:

  • Residential Bursary Fund if you study at a specialist residential centre
  • Residential Support Scheme if you do not study at a specialist residential centre

The funds are usually for students between 16 and 19. You may still be eligible if you're over 19, but you must either:

  • be continuing a course you started aged 16 to 18
  • have an EHCP

Get funding for college accommodation (GOV.UK)

Specialist or residential colleges

To apply for funding for a residential or specialist college, you will have to show that your local mainstream college cannot meet your special educational needs (SEN). This may involve visiting your local college and getting an assessment.

Asking for a specialist college in your EHCP

If you have an EHC plan, you can ask to go to the specialist college of your choice in your EHCP. This is called 'naming a special post-16 institution' (specialist colleges for students aged 16 and older).

The specialist college must meet your needs and be an 'efficient use of resources' for your local authority to agree to fund your chosen college.

If the local authority does not agree to your chosen college and you are not happy with the named college or course offered in its place, you can:

  • try mediation
  • appeal to a SEND tribunal

Appealing an EHC plan decision

IPSEA provides a wide range of resources to help you go through the steps for EHCPs and negotiating with local authorities.

If you're aged between 16 and 19 years, you might be eligible to receive a bursary. You do not have to pay this back.

You could receive a bursary of up to £1,200 a year if you're 'vulnerable'. You're considered to be vulnerable if you're:

  • in care or a care leaver
  • getting Income Support or Universal Credit
  • receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and also getting Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

You could also get a discretionary award if you face financial barriers, such as you're struggling with the costs of transport, meals, books and equipment.

Your college or training provider is responsible for deciding who is eligible, how much to pay and how regularly to pay it. They'll usually want to see evidence, such as a letter about your benefits.

Discretionary support funds

You could get extra money from your college if you're facing financial hardship. Discretionary support funds help disadvantaged students, such as disabled students or those on low incomes with the costs of further education.

Each college has its own policy on who is eligible for funding and what they will provide grants for. Grants can cover the cost of:

  • childcare
  • books and equipment
  • transport to and from college
  • field trips
  • examination fees

What you can apply for depends on your age, learning provider and personal situation.

Contact your college student support or welfare officer for more information on how to apply for funds.

You can also talk to your college or education provider about Learner Support (GOV.UK) to find out if you can get financial support.

Grants for disability costs

You may be able to claim grants from charitable trusts to help with the extra costs of disability.

Use the grants checker to find out what grants may be available to you.

The Snowdon Trust provides grants for disability-related further education costs not covered by Government funding. They accept applications from February to August for the academic year starting in September.

Apply for a Snowdon Trust grant

Last reviewed by Scope on: 24/09/2019

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