Who qualifies for the loan?
The Advanced Learner Loan is not means-tested and does not require a credit check, but to be eligible for a loan you must be:
- Aged 19 or over on the first day of your course
- Ordinarily a resident in the UK/EU/EEA for at least three years before the start date of your course
- Enrolling on a full Level 3 or Level 4 course (details below).
What can I use the loan for?
The loan is designed to pay for part of or the full cost of the tuition fee for your full Level 3+ course – the loan cannot be used to pay for individual units or awards. Qualifications that you can use the loan for include:
- A-Levels (up to three)
- Access to Higher Education Diplomas
- BTEC and other Diplomas and Certificates
- National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)
- Note: Apprenticeships are no longer supported
How much can I borrow?
The amount you can get depends on the course you want to take and whether you want to pay for any of the tuition fee yourself – you can choose a loan that pays for the full cost of your course or you can choose to pay all or part of the tuition fee yourself. There is a minimum loan amount of £300. If you are paying part of or all of the tuition fee yourself, Bedford College offers an affordable instalment option to help spread the cost – see details on below.
How does the loan work?
The Advanced Learner Loan is similar to existing loans for higher education – after applying to the government organisation Student Finance England (SFE), they will pay the agreed amount to Bedford College when you start your course. You only need to apply once per course, so if for example your course is longer than one year you don’t need to apply separately for each year.
Can I take out more than one loan?
You can apply for up to four loans in total, but you can only have one loan at a time – after completing each qualification you will be able to apply again, up to a maximum of four times. Each loan will need also need to be for a different course/different level – use the eligibility tool to find out more.
What happens about repayments?
Paying back your loan is simple – you’ll only have to start making repayments in the April after you complete your course and only if you’re earning over £404 per week, £1,750 per month or £21,000 per year. Payments are automatically taken from your earnings through the tax system.
How much will I have to repay?
Repayments will be 9% of your wage above £21,000 per year, £1,750 per month or £404 per week. So if for example you are earning a salary of £25,000 per year, repayments would be calculated as 9% of £4,000, which equals a £30 repayment per month. If your salary falls below the earning threshold, repayments will stop. If you have not repaid your loan after 30 years the outstanding debt will be written off.
You’ll only need to start repaying the loan from April 2016 after you’ve completed your course and you’re earning more than £21,000 per year.
If you don't complete your course you will be required to repay the loan amount relative to your attendance. When you stop attending, payments will stop and you’ll only be liable to repay the amount (including any interest accrued on that amount) that’s already been paid to the College.
What about interest charges?
Interest on the loan is linked to inflation and is set at the rate of the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 3% when you are studying your course. After completing your course, the interest rate is charged at the rate of the RPI.
From April 2016, the interest rate charges will be based on your income, charged at RPI for incomes of £21,000 or less, RPI plus an increasing percentage up to 3% for incomes of £21,001 to £41,000, and RPI plus 3% for incomes of £41,001 and above.
How do I apply for a loan?
Students can apply for a loan online through Student Finance England. Application forms will be available through the helpline.
Can I take out a loan if I have been declared bankrupt in the past?
Yes, the loan is not dependant on your credit rating.
Can I take out a loan if I had a higher education loan in the past or I am still paying this off?
Yes, so long as you do not have any arrears. If you have arrears, you will need to pay these off first. If you took a student loan out between 1990-1997 you would not have been paying your loan back via HMRC, therefore you would need to be paying this back and have no arrears.
Can I get help with other course related costs?
In addition to the Advanced Learner Loan there is a means-tested bursary to support students who are on a low income who require support with other costs related to their course (e.g. travel or childcare costs). The bursary does not form part of the loan and is a separate application.
Other ways to pay…
- Taking out a loan isn’t the only way to pay for your course – for courses over £100 Bedford College also offers an affordable Direct Debit instalments option to help spread the cost of tuition fees. You will pay an initial non-refundable deposit when you enrol on your course, followed by:
- A maximum of four further payments for courses lasting under six months OR
- A maximum of six further payments for courses lasting over six months.
Please note: an extra £20 charge applies if you choose to pay by instalments.
Progressing to higher education from Access?
Your loan could be written off!
If you are interested in taking one of our Access to Higher Education courses and use a Advanced Learner Loan to pay for all or part of your tuition fee, you will have any outstanding debt written off if you go on to complete a higher education qualification.
What happens if I don't start or finish my course?
If you take out a loan and notify the College in writing, prior to the intended start date of your course, all outstanding course fees will be cancelled. However, if you start a course and withdraw before completion you will be liable for the balance of course fees for that academic year.
Information for learners
Support for individuals requiring additional information or guidance during the application process for Advanced Learner Loans is provided by Student Finance England. This can be accessed by:
- calling 0845 24 02 024, Monday to Friday, 8.00am-8.00pm and Saturday to Sunday, 9.00am-4.00pm
- post to – Advanced Learner Loans, PO Box 302, Darlington DL1 9NQ.
Sian (Midwifery Access to Higher Education Level 3)
I wanted to go to university to become a midwife, but I didn’t have any A-Levels and I’d been out of education for seven years looking after my son and working part-time. A family friend mentioned the Access course to me as a way to get back into education and prepare for studying again.
Funding my course was a real concern for me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to live, particularly as I have a child. At my interview, I heard about the 24+ Learning Loan and I got a pack with some more information. It was a great relief to find out that it covers the full course fee, plus it’s completely written off when I progress on to my higher education course. The application form was really easy to fill in and the College turned it around really quickly. In fact, Student Services have been brilliant. I have the childcare bursary as well, so I have to liaise with them quite a lot, but they are a joy to deal with and always very helpful.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the course because I never liked science at school, but I actually really like our biology lessons, they are interesting and well planned. Overall, I feel that the College has given me lots of support, from how to write an essay, to improving my maths and English, all of which are skills I need to go to university.
Alexandra (Accounting AAT Level 3 Diploma)
I work for a Bedford accountancy firm and wanted to progress my career but continue to work full-time. This part-time AAT course fits in well because it’s two evenings a week.
I found out from a member of staff at the College that, because this is a Level 3 course and, because I’m over 24 years of age, I qualify for the government’s 24+ Advanced Learning Loan. I went along to a College open evening to find out more and it was very easy to apply. There wasn’t a lot of paperwork and the repayments aren’t that demanding either – they’re small and reasonable.
The 24+ Advanced Learning Loan definitely helped me pay for the course, in fact I wouldn’t be able to afford it without the loan as I’m not getting any funding from my work. I’d recommend other people wanting to take out the loan don’t leave it to the last minute as you need to make sure you get all the right documents together when you apply for the first time.
Although I work for an accountancy firm, I’m doing an administration job at the moment, so this AAT qualification will help advance my career. I’m planning to go on and complete the Level 4 AAT – that’s my goal. Once I have the Level 4 qualification it will open up a lot of different opportunities for me. The course has definitely helped me gain a greater understanding of what goes on at work, particularly the financial terminology the accountants use, so it has significantly increased my confidence at work.