Student Finances Compared: US vs. UK


No matter where you live, getting a good education is very important. It can help you land your dream job while ensuring that you earn a good living for many years to come. And education is easily carried – once you have a qualification, you’ll have it for the rest of your life. Although it is easy to believe that student finances are pretty much the same all over the world, little could be further from the truth. With a little input from the guys at UK financial comparison website, we’ve compared US to UK student finances. You will quickly realize that there are some major differences!

Cost of Tuition

Every student is concerned with how much college is going to cost. This is true regardless of where you live. However, there are many differences between tuition costs in the US and the UK.

Did you know that in the 2011/12 there is a maximum tuition fee in the UK of £3,375? In short, this means that you are never going to pay more than this amount in tuition. Along with this, students in the UK have access to a “Tuition Fee loan”, which covers the total cost of tuition – regardless of the financial situation of the student.

On the other side of the globe, you have colleges and universities in the US. These schools set their own tuition and fees. There are both private and public institutions to consider. Generally speaking, private schools cost more than their public counterparts. That being said, there is no cap to speak of. Instead, the school has the right to set its own tuition. Some of the more prestigious private schools in the US charge more than $40,000 per year in tuition alone.

Financial Aid

As noted above, the Tuition Fee loan is very popular in the UK. This gives students financial help, regardless of how much money their parents earn – the same cannot be said for those in the US.

To go along with their cheap student loans, free money is also available to students in the UK by way of grants and bursaries. For example, if your family’s income is less than £50,000 you can apply for the Maintenance Grant. This is designed to help students from lower income families with the basic cost of living. The maximum amount a student can claim for the 2011/12 academic year is £2,906. The closer your family’s income to £50,000 the less you will receive. By law, every university in the UK is required to offer a bursary to students who are eligible for the full Maintenance Grant. The minimum amount that can be offered is £338 with the average award coming in at roughly £900.

The financial aid system in the United States is much different. Generally speaking, there are four types of aid to consider: student loans, grants, scholarships, and the Federal Work Study Program.

  • Student loans: As the name implies, these are loans that can be used to pay for tuition, room and board, and other expenses.
  • Grants: This is free money that is offered by colleges and universities as well as third party organizations.
  • Scholarships: Much like grants, this is also free money that is not required to be repaid. These awards are given based on merit, such as for grades or athletic prowess.
  • Federal Work Study Program: Are you interested in working while you attend college? If so, the Federal Work Study Program is a great choice as it allows you to get an on-campus job that can help pay for some of your expenses.

Credit Cards

One thing that US and UK students have in common is that both groups use credit cards quite often. While this problem has spiraled out of control as of late, it has not slowed down the number of students applying for credit cards.

In the US, credit card companies are no longer able to set up on college campuses as a way of attracting students. This change has gone a long way in slowing down the number of students applying for credit cards. Of course, there is no way to put a complete end to this – regardless of location. Students are in position to find and apply for credit cards online, often times receiving a card without the need for a parent’s signature.


Student finances in the US are not the same as the UK. As you compare the points above – tuition, financial aid, and credit card use – you can see that there are many differences.

Image: Justin’s Travels


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