Maybe you trained for a career that you’re not finding fulfilling and you’re looking to retrain? Maybe you wasted your time at college and didn’t quite get the A Level grades you’d hoped for? Or maybe you just want to gain some new skills to show off at work or in your personal life?
There are many motivations for mature students to go back to further education and while it’s been well publicised that anyone taking a degree can apply for government loans, funding your learning at FE level hasn’t involved this before. However, just last month, this all changed with the introduction of 24+ loans.
But what is a 24+ loan? And why should you care about them? There has been a lot of talk in the media about them and many of the first applicants have started their courses in the last few weeks. So we decided to compile a bit of a fact file for anyone after just a bit more information before they take the plunge into further education.
Am I eligible?
Funnily enough, 24+ loans are for people who are age 24 and older (it’s all in the name!) and hoping to go back into, or start for the first time, further education.
As for the course, it has to start between the 1st of August 2013 and the 31st of July 2014 and it has to be in further education (you can’t get a 24+ loan for a uni’ degree) of level 3 or 4. Loads of further education courses can be paid for with 24+ loans – advanced and higher apprenticeships, A Levels, BTECs and Access to Higher Education, to name just a few.
You also have to be studying in England and your training provider must have been approved for funding (you should find this out when you apply for your course).
Money in the bank
You don’t actually get any cash in your wallet or extra digits on your bank balance when you apply for a 24+ loan. In fact, the money is paid directly to your training provider or FE college to go towards your fees. There’s no standard amount either as you will be given a figure based on the cost of the course you are taking. There is a minimum amount though – any courses under £300 you will have to pay for yourself or find other financial help with.
24+ loans are fairly easy to apply for in comparison to HE funding as you don’t have to prove what your earnings are or how much any of your relatives take home. You will need to ask your college for a ‘Learning and funding information’ letter though as this will contain all the information about what and where you plan to study.
There are other supporting documents you will be required to send in but these are fewer than for an HE course and vary depending on your circumstances. You can apply for your 24+loan online or by post, but if you do it online you will need to register beforehand.
Pay back time
No matter when you began your course, repayments don’t start until April 2016. You will have to pay interest, but this is not high and is very competitive compared to private lenders. Once you’re earning over £21,000 you will pay back 9% of your income. You can however, repay your loan in a lump sum if you wish to.
The money you pay back will leave your salary with the tax you pay – so you don’t have to budget for the repayments, they come straight out of your regular salary. It’s also worth noting that if you take out a 24+ loan to pay for an Access to Higher Education course, the government will write it off if you then take a higher education course.
How the interest works
While you’re doing the course, the interest you’ll be gaining on your loan will be set at the rate of inflation plus 3%. For any time after that while you’re earning less than £21,000, this will go down to just the rate of inflation. Then if your earnings go up to above £21,000 but below £41,000, it will be the rate of inflation plus up to 3%, and if they go to above £41,000, it will be the rate of inflation plus 3%.
Confusing? Basically you will never pay more interest than the rate of inflation plus 3%.
We hope that’s helped a bit with your understanding of 24+ loans and answered the question, 'What is a 24+loan?', but if you need more information and want to apply, you can do so through the GOV.UK site. Or, if this has given you the encouragement you needed to find that course you’ve been meaning to do, have a look at the range of training and short courses available.
Jade will talk your ear off about rowing if you let her. She studied an MA and NCTJ diploma in Journalism at Brunel but her course-taking didn't stop there, having tried a number of different subjects since working here, even magic. Whether you're an expert who wants to share their knowledge, a student who's had a great experience or you just want to say hi, she'd love you to get in touch through our social media pages.