Higher education can open up many opportunities, but can also bring financial pressures with it. If you have a disability, these financial concerns can be particularly worrying, especially if you need additional funding to support you with your studies.
Tuition fee loans and disability grants
All students are entitled to tuition fee loans and some may be entitled to grants. Students living with disabilities may also be entitled to additional funding to cover disability related costs. These disability grants can be used to help purchase equipment, provide additional support, or help with things like travel costs.
Most universities have coordinators who are specifically dedicated to assisting students with disabilities. They can provide advice, as well as support and guidance to students and carers. They can also help with advice on support funding. It may be useful to contact your university or college's disability coordinator before you make a final decision on where to study to find out what support is available.
Support provided by colleges and universities could include:
- Adapted accommodation for students with disabilities
- Staff available to provide additional care
- Assistance from volunteers to help students with disabilities
It's also a good idea to go and check the institution out for yourself before you apply. Have a look at the facilities, inspect onsite accessibility and talk to other people with disabilities who attend the university about their experiences.
Remember, when applying to a university, you don't have to tell them about your disability, but you will need to if you want any additional support or funding.
Below are a few of the additional grants and funding you may be entitled to if you have a disability, long term illness or have been diagnosed with a learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.
Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA)
In England, if you're studying towards higher education, and you have a long term medical condition, mental illness or other specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, you could be eligible for a Disabled Student’s Allowance. This allowance can help with the additional costs often associated with students who have disabilities. It can be granted in addition to other loans and does not have to be paid back. The allowance is a great way to help buy specialist equipment such as computers or chairs, or to help with travel costs that may be incurred due to your disability.
When being assessed for DSA, your individual circumstances are taken into consideration. Your eligibility is not assessed on your income, however, you will need to meet the definition of a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010.
Applications can be made through Student Finance England and can take up to three months, so make sure you get your applications in early.
If you’re in Wales you should also apply through the Student Finance Wales website.
If you’re in Scotland you should apply through the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for all courses.
If you’re in Northern Ireland you should apply to the Student Finance ni.
NHS Disabled Student’s Allowance
If you’re taking a course that is funded by the NHS, and you have a disability, you may be eligible for additional funding if your disability means you incur extra costs. This is similar to the DSA, and may be available through The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland as well as The Scottish Government Health Directorate.
Access to Learning Fund
If you are in financial difficulty, you may be able to claim additional financial help through the Access to Learning Fund. It is not provided directly from the government and you will need to speak to your university or college to see if you’re eligible for additional funds.
Charitable Trusts: alternative funds
If you’re struggling to secure funds from the usual government sources, there may be a number of charities that could help. Most of these charitable trusts would expect you to have already applied for all possible state funds or any other help you may be legally entitled to.
The Turn2us website has a free grants search tool to help you with your search for grants specific to your circumstances.
The Disability Grants Website is also a great tool to use, and allows you to search for grants by category.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA): for additional costs
In addition to the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) and other forms of student finance, you may be able to apply for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to assist you with funding to cover additional costs in relation to your studies. The gov.uk website can provide you with more details on eligibility.
Getting the most from your time at university
University can be a life-changing experience in terms of opening up new career and personal development opportunities. It can also be a great deal of fun. Do your research and find out what you’re entitled to before you apply.
Speak to your preferred university’s disability coordinator about what additional funding they may be able to provide you with, including other ways they support students with disabilities. Ensure funding is in place before you commit to any other loans and financial commitments.
Most grants are specific to your circumstances so be sure you get your applications in as early as you can, as they can take time to assess and may even require travel to an assessment centre or a visit to your home and when you get there take advantage of all those exciting opportunities!
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