Coronavirus: Information if you are a student or are repaying your student loan

Updated on 14 July 2020

Coronavirus

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having far-reaching financial impacts on individuals and businesses across the UK, and indeed across the world. As many students have part-time jobs you may be worried about a reduction in your hours or losing your job. This page explains some of the issues you need to be aware of and highlights what financial help you may be able to access. 

If your finances have been adversely affected because of the coronavirus, you should also check out our other pages in this section. This page deals with issues that are specific to students or graduates and postgraduates who have student loans. 

The Student Loans Company has partially opened its customer contact centres. You can also use your online account to check balances and so on. 

Image displaying letters spelling student loan in front of a laptop
(c) Shutterstock / wong yu liang

⚠️ We are working hard to ensure this guidance is up to date – however, you should bear in mind that things may change as the Government respond to the ongoing situation.

Student Loan repayments

I have had student loan repayments taken from my earnings but I will earn less than the income threshold this year. Can I get a refund?

First, if your earnings have fallen to below the student loan repayment thresholds then you should not continue to have any loan repayments deducted.

If you continue to earn above the student loan repayment threshold then your student loan repayments will continue to be deducted (either through the PAYE system and /or your Self Assessment tax return).

If your annual income is less than the annual threshold, you can get a refund. Although you cannot get a refund through the PAYE system, you can apply to the Student Loans Company to have the excess repayments refunded to you. You will have to prove your income for the tax year (from your payslips or P60).

I have a special arrangement with the Student Loans Company and cannot now afford the repayments. What do I do?

Do not ignore the situation. You will not be contacted in the meantime by the Students Loan Company, nor penalised, according to GOV.UK. But they will contact you once their service reverts to normal and you will have to agree how to pay your outstanding sum then.

I have a student loan. My employer is using the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. Do I still need to make student loan repayments?

Any payments you receive from your employer will be treated as normal wages and, accordingly, if you earn over the threshold for making student loan repayments, the repayments will be deducted from your pay as usual.

Students

My part-time job has ended. What help is available?

If you have been working for an employer or through recruitment agencies, even if you have not worked recently, simply being on the books (the payroll) as at 19 March 2020 might be enough to allow that agency or employer to ‘furlough’ you in order to gain access to a grant under the coronavirus job retention scheme. If you have not received your P45 yet, it may be that you are still on the payroll, albeit that you have not had any work recently.

If you have received your P45, another option to explore might be that if you were with an employer or agency as at 28 February 2020 and then were subsequently let go or left, that agency or employer might be able to take you back and then furlough you under the job retention scheme.  However, you should be aware that there is no obligation on them to do this. Indeed, as this involves a revival of a legal relationship, including all the ‘hidden’ costs and obligations that come with this, it is likely that many will not want to go down this route.

Depending on the type of work you used to do and how long you were in your previous job, you may be entitled to redundancy money. Normally you have to have had more than just a casual hours/zero hours contract and be in the same job for two years or more to qualify for redundancy pay. You can read more about this on GOV.UK.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that if you are furloughed, you are then still free to take up work for different employers/agencies and you may like to look over our guidance on this (it might also be useful if you are out of work and want to find a new job).

Normally students cannot access universal credit (UC) or other in-work state benefits.

Now that I am not working, I cannot afford to pay my rent. What can I do?

This may depend on whether you are renting accommodation from the university or college, or from a private landlord.

Some universities and colleges, who rent out accommodation owned by them, are allowing students to end contracts early or are making other provisions. We suggest you contact the student accommodation service to discuss the situation.

If you are renting from a private landlord, it makes sense to contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss the situation. The government has also published some information on GOV.UK. The Scottish government is passing legislation to increase notice times for evictions to 6 months during this emergency period. The Welsh and Northern Ireland governments have provided guidance for tenants on their websites.

My course has finished early due to the coronavirus. How does that affect my council tax?

Each council has its own system for dealing with reductions in and exemptions from council tax. Normally properties that are occupied only by full-time students are exempt from council tax. Although your course may have finished early, it is likely that the council will seek to continue treating you as a full-time student for this academic year. You should contact the council to obtain their agreement. You can read more about council tax and students on our website Tax Guide for Students.

My course is starting late or has been deferred due to the coronavirus. How does that affect my council tax?

Student halls of residence are automatically exempt from council tax, but if you are renting a property from someone else, there could be council tax charges. Each council has its own system for dealing with reductions in and exemptions from council tax. Normally properties that are occupied only by full-time students are exempt from council tax.

The issue here is that your tenancy might begin before your course actually starts and so it may be difficult to argue that you are a full-time student at that time. We would suggest you might try to negotiate with your landlord to see if the tenancy might start later as that would save rent as well as any council tax. Strictly council tax could be due for the period before your course starts. We recommend you contact the student welfare adviser at the college or university where the start of your course has been delayed and ask if they are going to negotiate an agreement with the council on behalf of all the students who may be adversely affected. In addition, if council tax is charged, we recommend you contact the council, explain the situation and ask them to set aside the council tax for the period before your course starts. You can read more about council tax and students on our website Tax Guide for Students.

Will I get my next instalment of student finance?

Maintenance loans should be paid as normal according to this update. There is further guidance on GOV.UK on what will happen with student finance if your course is extended for an additional period in the next academic year. There is information on how to contact Student Finance England, Wales and Northern Ireland on GOV.UK.

There is also additional information for current students on GOV.UK including Childcare grants and changes to household income affecting student finance.

How do I apply for student finance for the next academic year?

You should make your application as usual online. There is guidance for when the application process opens. The application depends on where you live in the UK – England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Where can I get more help?

Your university or college is likely to have a student welfare service.

For students in Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council has issued a briefing document on student support that should be updated regularly. Also, the Scottish Welfare Fund can accept applications from students.

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