The government will need to work with universities and higher education providers to tackle the negative impacts that the cost of living crisis is having on students. On top of the tuition fees, students now have the added stress of the cost of living rising, which 47% of postgraduates have deemed more concerning. Studies show 92% of undergraduates are concerned about the cost of living rising and more than half are worried about the financial impact it could have on their parents. It has led to an astonishing 37% of students looking for universities offering bursaries or scholarships despite 41% not expected to be eligible. 48% of students worry about financial impact on their parents as well as being concerned about choosing a university in a high cost of living area. It has been said that the cost of living crisis is now also becoming a cost of learning crisis.
One third of students are now living on less than £50 a month disposable income which has led to 11% of students turning to food banks, a huge increase from the 5% in January 2022. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that poor student mental health is linked to financial stress, which can result in a poor quality of learning. The main concern when applying to university used to be how welcoming or prestigious it was, but now students are considering how high of a cost the area they will be living in is. Students should be able to focus on their education but are being forced to devote their time to making money where they can and trying to survive. It has also had a domino effect on the families and friends of students, who they turn to in desperation.
We can see that this crisis is particularly hitting the South East of England and is especially a problem in and around London.
The national union of students have set out a cost of living policy proposal, making recommendations to the government, after an NUS spokesperson claimed “Huge increases to the price of bills, food and living costs coupled with soaring rent has students on the brink.” These proposals include tying student maintenance support with inflation and stress testing all cost of living support schemes to ensure they work for students. Students are asking universities and higher education providers to recognize the cost of living crisis and begin to take action. For example, including cost essentials such as uniforms and equipment within tuition fees would be a great start to make a difference for students attending university in the current cost of living crisis.
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