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How student finance affects your benefits

You may be able to borrow money to help pay for university or college tuition fees and to help with living costs. This is called 'student income'.

Apply for student loans and bursaries

If you're entitled to a student loan, take it.

Part of the loan will count as income, even if you choose not to apply. This includes maintenance loans from the government.

Benefits not affected by income (not means-tested)

Claiming loans or grants to live and study should not affect the following benefits:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Benefit

If you do not know what benefits you claim, you can either:

  • check your award letter
  • contact the Department for Work and Pensions

Universal Credit and other means-tested benefits

Means-tested benefits are based on income and savings.

If you or your partner are in college or university, your student income can affect your means-tested benefits.

Examples of how your means-tested benefits can change (Disability Rights UK)

What counts as student income

Your student income includes:

  • student loans, including maintenance loans from the government
  • student grants
  • scholarships from a college or university for anything that is not travel costs, books, equipment or childcare
  • bursaries, like a teacher training bursary

If you apply for a bursary and later decide that you do not want to take it, this will not affect your benefits.

For example, you may decide to do this if you find out that a bursary is worth less than you will lose in benefits.

You can find out what you're entitled to through:

Your student income does not include:

  • fixed amounts for travel costs, books and equipment
  • any allowance for tuition fees
  • any Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • an allowance to cover the cost of residential study
  • money towards childcare costs
  • Parents' Learning Allowance
  • the 'special support' part of a maintenance loan for students who are entitled to certain disability benefits, such as DLA or PIP
  • a higher education bursary for care leavers

Universal Credit

Most full-time students are not eligible for Universal Credit. But you can claim Universal Credit as a full-time student if all of the following apply:

  • you receive PIP
  • your work capability assessment assessment says you have a 'limited capability for work'

If you think you may be eligible for PIP or DLA, apply as soon as you can.

How to claim PIP

Work Capability Assessment (Turn2Us)

There are some other ways to be eligible for Universal Credit when you are studying full time.

Universal Credit: studying full time (GOV.UK)

If you do not qualify for Universal Credit, you can apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

New Style ESA

Old-style Employment and Support Allowance

If you are still receiving old-style income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), this is affected by student income. But Universal Credit has replaced ESA for most new claims.

Part-time courses

Studying part-time will not usually affect your means-tested benefit.

Speak to an adviser from Citizens Advice online to find out if your benefits will change.

The rules on when a course counts as part-time vary for different benefits. If the place you are studying says a course is part-time.

Part-time students and benefits - who is a part-time student for benefits purposes? (Turn2Us)

Full-time courses

The rules around whether you count as a full-time student vary depending on both:

  • your course
  • your benefits

You cannot claim Carer’s Allowance if you’re a full-time student.

Who is a full-time student for benefit purposes? (Turn2Us)

Post-graduate study

If you're a full-time postgraduate student, your means-tested benefits, your income usually includes:

  • research council awards
  • postgraduate studentship or stipend
  • Master's Loans and Doctoral Loans from the government

Special support element

If you're an undergraduate and you qualify for certain benefits, like DLA or PIP, you can claim more support with your living costs.

Your student loan has a maintenance loan with a special support element up to £3,680. The special support element is not treated as income.

Student Finance will tell you if you can get the special support element when you apply.

Carer's Allowance

You cannot claim Carer's Allowance if you're a full-time student.

Benefits advice from Disability Rights UK

Disability Rights UK runs an advice line for disabled students studying in England.

Disabled Students Helpline (Disability Rights UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 14/07/2020

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