Many of the new series of Stage Events training sessions have been very successful. But, alas, How To Fund Your Training, which I was due to lead last week, could not go ahead.
However, some who had signed up for the half-day session contacted me direct to tell me how disappointed they were because they really need information about this tricky matter.
So - in order to help them and anyone else who is interested - here is the gist of what I had planned to say.
Performing arts courses which lead to accredited, undergraduate degrees (including two-year Foundation Degrees) in specialist colleges or universities can, like any other degree, be funded with student loans. These have to be paid back eventually but not until or unless, your earnings reach £21,000 per year and, failing that, the debt is written off after 30 years. The Student Loans Companycan provide details about exactly how these loans work.
Grants — which do not have to be repaid — are available from the government for students from very low income backgrounds to help cover the cost of both tuition fees and living expenses.
Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA) are government-funded scholarships. Top performing arts training colleges are assigned a handful of these to assign to outstanding students. These are due to be phased out, but the government promised in February that it would maintain them until a new replacement system has been developed.
There is no public funding for foundation courses, which typically last one year and help students to prepare for drama school. Neither is any government help available for post-graduate study. And it’s worth noting that, even for a post-graduate degree, you can access the normal loans and grants system only once. If you have already been funded to do a degree in, say, physics or law, you are ineligible for loans and grants for a subsequent performing arts degree.
If you do any sort of training in an independent college or school which is outside the accredited system, you cannot access public funds and must pay your own fees and accommodation costs.
Career development loans can sometimes be used to fund training, particularly at post-graduate level. Barclays and the Co-operative Bank are best for these.
However many training providers offer - or have benefactors who do - some scholarship places on courses of all sorts. The Stage is supporting £620,000 worth of these this year (you can find current application forms at thestage.co.uk/scholarships). Talk to the schools you’re interested in applying to about scholarship availability and application process.
Otherwise it’s a case of looking for ways of raising money to fund yourself. That means making money and saving money.
Try the entrepreneurial route. You are, presumably, a talented person if you want to train in the performing arts. Why not give a concert? Sell raffle tickets and get your family to make cakes to sell. Think of it as good old-fashioned fund raising. I have talked to several students who’ve done this very successfully.
Seek sponsorship. Try writing to a lot of people very persuasively and asking for a small amount such as £10.00. Again a number of students have told me that they’ve worked very hard at this and managed to accrue useful sums towards their training.
Read Lyndi Smith’s book Free Degrees (White Lion Press). Smith funded herself most of the way through RADA without incurring any debt at all and she has some good, practical ideas.
Consult the Directory of Grant Making Trusts in your local library or online. Hundreds of organisations have money to give to the right people. Make sure your criteria fit the category the organisations are set up to help and apply to all the relevant ones.
An ALRA student told me about Share and Care UK. It’s an agency which places people needing low cost accommodation in the homes of people with care needs who are prepared to let a room in return for 10 hours a week of housework, gardening, cooking and so on. Juliet Chappell reckons she saved about £4,000 in her first year and made firm friends with ‘her’ elderly lady.
Don’t spend money unnecessarily, either. If you are serious about your training, this could be a good moment to reconsider your relationship with tobacco and alcohol — both very costly. Accept that you won’t be able to afford many clothes while you’re training and study the rudiments of good housekeeping to keep living expenses down. Buy ingredients and cook them rather then relying on takeaways and plan meals in advance with house mates, for example.
Well, that’s about all I can pack into this small space. It’s the merest outline of the full version but I hope it’s a bit of help for those who need it. Good luck!