The tuition fee loan is paid directly to the student's higher education institution. The maintenance support package, on which this consultation focuses on, is paid directly to the student in three annual installments. Concerns, however, have been raised as to the financial pressures currently facing students under the tri-annual payment system.
Every full-time undergraduate student from Northern Ireland, regardless of where they study in the UK can avail of financial support. Known as the student support package it comprises of two main elements:
- a non-means tested tuition fee loan to cover the costs associated with tuition fees
- a partially means tested maintenance support package to support students in meeting the day to day living costs associated with attending higher education.
It is argued that the existing payment schedule means that students must budget over periods of roughly four months at a time, heightening the risk of students exhausting their finances before the payment of the next installment.
It has therefore been suggested that more regular maintenance payments would mitigate the risk of financial mismanagement and by extension financial hardship.