Millions of Britons are facing hard times ahead, as energy prices continue to soar and inflation rates reach the highest recorded level since 1992. And it's UK students who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.
In an article published by FE News, around two thirds of students have experienced mental illness as a result of financial pressures and a third have considered dropping out of their course because of financial difficulties. This worrying figure has been echoed in our research for the Young Persons' Money Index that revealed students are desperate for more education around financial management.
Many young students are learning to manage their money for the first time - and having to quickly adapt to living on a budget, which barely covers their basic cost of living.
In this month's guest blog, we hear directly from our panel member and undergraduate student, Tamzin Kelsall who shares her worries about the cost of living crisis. This is the new article in our guest blog series, written by members of our OpinionPanel Community. In the series you can hear Gen Z's stories, opinions and experiences written in their own words and on the topics that matter most to them.
Cost of living: how are students supposed to survive?
By Tamzin Kelsall, University Student & OpinionPanel Community Member
As a 2nd year student, I know that budgeting has to be one of my top priorities to enable myself to survive. Food and fuel prices are increasing, yet our maintenance loan is staying the same. Students have barely anything to live off, especially for those who don’t have part time jobs or extra income from their parents.
Our maintenance loan is there to help us pay rent, buy food (and other basics) - but put simply -it isn’t enough. According to Jessica Murray's article on Save the Student, rent prices differ vastly across England with the average cost at £641pm. The average maintenance loan however, is just £470 per month - that would leave most of us out of pocket of over £170 at the end of every month! Which is disgraceful.
My own experience
I have spend endless hours searching and applying for part-time jobs that would work around my university schedule. But, with so many other students applying for the same type of roles, it’s simply not possible for everyone to find work. This is leaving many of us without the necessary income we need to survive.
I've had to quickly learn how to budget and it’s a real struggle. I try to save money for emergencies (in case something goes wrong on my car for example) and I try to budget for extra university expenses, such as trips and textbooks. But the reality is, I’d be screwed if these extra expenses came up.
You may also be thinking that having a car is not a necessity, but I bought my car before university and it helps me get to and from placements that I regularly attend!
I know many students have had to ask parents for money to help them pay for just the basics (which is what the maintenance loan is supposed to cover). And this can be embarrassing.
Is it enough?
Student finance is simply not enough for students to live and be happy on. The maintenance loan should increase with rising food and fuel costs so that students aren’t put under significant stress.
University is supposed to be a time where young people become adults and learn how to live independently. Why set us up to fail?
The UCAS website has a page: 'What to do if your student finance isn’t enough'. The first suggestion is to look for scholarships and bursaries. I have applied to many, but only got accepted on one. Yes, they’re good - as you don’t need to pay them back - but it isn’t instant money, so if you're in need of urgent finance, it may not be useful.
A few other suggestions are to 'take a year out' or 'consider your university choices'. I personally was shocked that UCAS suggested these as options.
I believe that in a few years, that many students will be unable to go to university on the basis that they cannot afford rent or food basics.
- Will the cost of living crisis impact applicant choice? Are your students at risk of dropping out due to financial struggles? Get in touch with our HE researchers to find out.
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