PROUD parents with children who are going to university need to know the cold financial facts.
Most students and their parents spend a good deal of time weighing up the decision to go into higher education because they have to meet some of the costs.
But student numbers continue to rise. It is important to remember that despite the greater financial burden, long-term career benefits usually outweigh short-term financial disadvantages.
Tuition fees and living expenses are the two main costs. Since last autumn, university students have had to contribute towards tuition fees.
These add up to [pounds sterling]1,025 a year, which is adjusted annually in line with inflation.
The amount parents must contribute towards these fees is means-tested by local education authorities. For example, if parents' joint income is less than [pounds sterling]27,000 a year, they will not have to pay towards fees.
According to the Department for Education and Employment, about one-third of parents are not required to make any financial contribution and another third have to pay only a part of the tuition fee.
Parents' contribution also depends on the course their child plans to study. Some courses, including teaching and medicine, automatically qualify for free tuition.
Whether a student will be attending a publicly-funded university or college will also affect how much
parents must pay. Other factors to be considered include whether a student has previously received funding for a government-supported course and whether study will be full time or part time.
Clive and Meg Jackson are facing up to contributing towards their daughter Anna's higher education costs this October.
Clive and Meg, both teachers, live in Cambridge. Anna, 18, has been provisionally accepted at Oxford to read history.
Clive says: 'We have just sent off Anna's forms to the local education authority to find out how much we will be expected to pay towards tuition fees. We found the pamphlet Financial Support for Students (see Information At Your Fingertips for details) invaluable and recommend it to other parents.
'As yet we have made no formal plans with Anna about how to make our financial contribution. In the meantime we plan to sit down with her to discuss budgeting and staying in control of money matters.' After tuition fees, the next major student expense is living costs.
These break down into six main areas: accommodation, food/bills, travel, clothes, study materials, social and leisure activities.
Accommodation is clearly the biggest expense. Rental costs can vary greatly. For example, students at London's City University can expect to pay [pounds sterling]74 a week for lodgings compared with [pounds sterling]40 for students at the University of Wales in Swansea. Charges for Liverpool and Warwick universities are almost as low, but University of Edinburgh students can face weekly charges of up to [pounds sterling]60.
There is less difference between the cost of accommodation with meals - about [pounds sterling]66 to [pounds sterling]74 - but London is head and shoulders above the rest at [pounds sterling]85 a week.
Other elements such as insurance should be considered as rates can vary depending on whether a student is based in the centre of a big city or an out-of-town campus.
The Jacksons do not feel that costs will be a problem as they have been paying school fees for Anna.
'We think that putting money in an Isa or similar tax-free savings scheme would help parents faced with supporting their children through university,' says Clive.
An increasing number of parents are buying houses for their sons and daughters to live in during their time at university.
Sharing the house with a group of fellow students paying even a nominal rent can usually cover mortgage repayments and there is the added bonus of removing the worry about unscrupulous landlords. …