More than half of undergraduate university students regularly worry about meeting basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills, according to the results of the recent NUS Pound in Your Pocket.
The survey was launched in 2011 and published December 5 2012, and was participated in by almost 14,500 students across the UK. The results of the study show how much financial problems impact many students’ day-to-day lives, as 41% of higher education applicants between 2009 and 2011 were entitled to full maintenance grants.
Findings suggest that students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds suffer the most, with 49% of those students who had considered dropping out of their university course citing financial difficulty as their main reason.
Problems were also identified in the methods and delivery of financial support available to students. Results showed the need for smaller, more regular student finance payments to make it more convenient for students to pay bills. 58% of undergraduate students said that they did not feel able to concentrate on their studies due to financial worries.
28% of higher education participants worked part time to cover living costs that weren’t covered by their existing financial support, but crucially the study linked this to external results showing that such work decreases course participation, increases stress, and increases their chances of gaining poorer overall results. The report also criticised hidden course and transport costs, which was shown to have a negative impact on student wellbeing.
Additionally, it also highlighted the need for the current means testing to adapt to modern household structures. Major flaws were pointed out with the financial assessment of individuals with separated or divorced parents that both financially supported them, or those with parents who had live-in partners that did not support them.
The NUS hopes that the survey’s findings will help to prompt discussion about policy-making, looking to “reform the pattern of payments or improve the way that discretionary funding works, introduce tighter controls on the costs students face, and to make sure that public sources of support interact in a much more holistic way with paid work and with the benefit system.” They also hope to persuade academics and the government to invest in more research in these areas.
Sarah Brodie, a student advisor on finances at UEA, said: “Going to university is an investment in students’ future, career and earning potential.
“Most students do need to budget carefully and there are tuition fees to pay, but not upfront. The government provides loans to help with both fees and living costs, which students don’t have to pay back until after they graduate – and only after they are earning more than £21,000 a year.
“Students from low income families are also eligible for living cost grants from Student Finance England. These grants are worth up to £3,354 and don’t have to be paid back.
“The University also provides a number of bursaries, scholarships and other awards which don’t have to be paid back. We also provide emergency financial help to students in difficulty.”