Andrew Scouller: COVID-19 and Brexit – A perfect storm for further education funding



Andrew Scouller

Andrew Scouller, an independent financial advisor at Phil Anderson Financial Services Ltd, discusses further education funding in the wake of COVId-19 and Brexit.

As students return to college and university, it’s an apt time to reflect on how the seismic changes wrought by the pandemic and by Brexit have impacted the cost of student living. Should you now be saving more to fund your child’s education in the face of a number of new challenges?

Our exit from the EU has led to the Turing scheme replacing the EU programme Erasmus. The new scheme means that students who want to study and live abroad will no longer receive tuition fees, their living allowance will be cut by a fifth, and the EU commission will only help students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK.

As things stand, COVID-19 tenant protection schemes are being wound-up, prompting concerns that rent arrears and evictions could increase and result in higher rental costs - a recent survey by Citizens Advice Scotland found that student rents across the UK had increased by almost 20% in the last year.

What’s more, many students rely on paid work experience as part of their course, but statistics reveal that 61% of UK employers cancelled their paid placements last year, increasing the burden on carers to make up the shortfall.

Although we cannot plan for political and global changes, these are things we need to consider, as there will always be external factors impacting on the cost of student living. If you have more than one dependent child, it can feel very dauting, but there are a few simple steps you can take to support your children’s aspirations.

So where do you begin? Starting to save from day one, when your child is young will assist you in accumulating what you need but also makes better financial sense than saving a big amount later in life. Why? Because of the effect of compound interest. When you save in a savings account it earns interest which is added to the account periodically. Generally, the next time interest is calculated, it will be based on the balance of your savings (which will include previously added interest). This is known as “compound interest” and allows your cash savings to grow at a faster rate because the interest itself will earn further interest.

Investments are slightly different. The amount of money you have in your fund will depend on the success of the investments, as opposed to savings which often have a set level of interest. However, whilst those investments are successful and make some gains, the compounding effect still applies.

In the longer term if you want a dedicated account for your child’s savings, a Junior ISA (Individual Savings Account), could be a way to invest tax-efficiently on their behalf. Currently, this allows you to save or invest up to £9,000 in the current tax year and will only be available to your child once they turn 18.

In the shorter-term grandparents can make use of lifetime gifting, which can have the dual benefit of reducing the value of their estate for inheritance tax purposes, and seeing their money benefit their grandchildren whilst they are still around.

However you fund your child’s education, it’s important to plan effectively for the years ahead, and take financial advice to ensure you don’t compromise your own financial security.



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