How student funding 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'. Your income can affect some means-tested benefits. Means-tested benefits change based on how much money you get from things like jobs, loans and grants.

Warning Take a student loan if you’re entitled to one

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.

Benefits not affected by income

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

Benefits affected by income (means-tested)

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

Means-tested benefits include:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Support

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.

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

Warning Claim benefits before you apply to university

You will be able to claim means-tested benefits like Universal Credit while you study if your assessment says that you have limited capability for work. You will also need to meet other conditions, such as already claiming either:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

If you claim Universal Credit after you start your course, the rules are stricter if you’re studying full-time.

What counts as student income

Your student income includes:

  • student loans
  • student grants
  • scholarships from a college or university for anything that’s 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:

What does not count as student income

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

Part-time courses

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

If you’re aged 16 to 19 and are studying in sixth-form or college (further education), the rules are stricter and the income from your student loan can affect your 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, this should be enough.

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)

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.

Benefits advice

Disability Rights UK runs an advice line for disabled students studying in England. You can talk to an adviser who can give you more information about how your benefits could be affected. 

You can also get advice from:

Last reviewed by Scope on: 11/10/2019

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