94% of students are concerned about the cost of living crisis.
With inflation at a 40-year high, there’s no denying that the cost of living crisis is causing many of us to tighten our belts, but what’s more shocking is the impact it’s having on students’ lives.
Our own survey of students last year revealed that on average students were ending up hundreds of pounds in debt every month just trying to get by on the essentials. This week, a report released by the Russell Group has shown that things haven’t improved for students now midway through the academic year.
In fact, the report, which surveyed 8,800 students across 14 Russell group universities in the UK had some pretty hard-hitting numbers to share.
One of the most concerning results was that 18% of students had considered dropping out for financial reasons. Something our own Instagram community knows all too well.
We caught up with Cameron, a current university student who has recently had to take redundancy from his part-time job and is now worried about what his future at university might hold.
The cost of travel is too high
Cameron has been working at a tea and coffee shop for the past 4 years while at university — a job that neatly fitted around his studies until recently.
Due to rising business costs, the coffee shop was forced to close, but they generously offered Cameron the same role and hours in another of their branches further away.
After considering the opportunity, Cameron was forced to turn the role down due to the immense cost of travelling an extra 30 minutes to do the same job. He discovered that his new commute would cost him around £50 a week which would leave him out of pocket despite having a job.
Are there any vacancies?
With his redundancy package running out in a matter of weeks, Cameron is now desperately searching for a job closer to home, with little luck so far.
He explained, “I fear with the redundancy and struggles with the current labour market that finding a new job before my redundancy package runs out and close to home will be near impossible.”
This is a reality faced by many young people at the moment — just this week it’s been reported that the number of jobs on offer dropped by 51,000 between December and February and the number of 16 to 24-year-olds working is on the rise.
One student we spoke with told us “I now work 3 jobs so that I can afford to live” which leaves us worried about how this might be impacting their studies.
So, what’s left for Cameron? Right now, cutting costs feels like the only way forward.
With the cost of using public transport to get to uni sitting at £25 a week, he told us, “I already walk to my lectures to cut down on costs and shop far less in terms of essentials, let alone luxuries.”
What are students classing as luxuries and essentials? Cameron told us he wasn’t buying new clothes, had no subscriptions other than his phone contract and wasn’t getting takeaways.
However, simply avoiding luxuries wasn’t turning out to be enough as he went on to share, “snacks were the first things to go, this has now extended to items such as chicken (especially with the bird flu epidemic causing prices to rise), cheese, coffee and tea, fresh produce (going for more canned items).”
Cameron also believes that even if he’d taken the job further afield, the amount of food he could have afforded to buy would have reached “unhealthy levels”.
Cameron’s not alone here either — the Russell Group’s survey revealed that 1 in 4 students regularly go without food and other necessities because they can’t afford them.
Another student we spoke to told us “I can barely go out… I’ve had to reduce to a shop every two weeks”.
Is dropping out an option?
He describes dropping out only as the “final option” if he can’t find more part-time employment and can’t get by on his savings.
Cameron counts himself lucky — he has emergency savings from his old job, plus the option to dip into his ISA if necessary, but not all students are this fortunate.
According to the report, 50% of students have had to borrow money in the last year, with 13% relying on their overdraft to get by.
With 72% saying their mental health has suffered as a result and a further 54% believing their academic performance has suffered due to rising costs, it’s no wonder that many can’t see another way out.
What can be done?
The answer here is pretty simple — maintenance loans need to rise in line with inflation. Currently, they’re only set to rise by 2.3% next year while we’ve seen around a 10% rise in average costs.
Help students like Cameron and so many more by signing this petition to close the £1,500 inflation gap for maintenance loans.