Russell Group Student Union recently surveyed 8,500 students to see how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting them. Socioeconomically disadvantaged students were the most affected, with over 30% considering dropping out. And 20% of the entire survey sample were thinking about taking the same action.
Everything is getting more expensive for students. From rental fees to living costs to rising utility bills – it’s all combining to cause a desperate chain reaction. Students are taking on part-time roles and jobs to cover expenses, which makes them feel tired and stressed, and eats into valuable study time.
Grades are slipping, anxiety levels are rising
Some are even skipping lectures because it costs too much to travel to and from campus. Academic grades are plummeting, and anxiety and depression rates are soaring – what started as a financial crisis has quickly doubled up as a mental health one.
Sophie Bush, a first-year student at UCL, is considering dropping out of her course. Like many students, she’s started waitressing alongside her degree because it was the only way to continue. However, this, combined with her Crohn’s disease, has left her “at breaking point”.
Finnish student Evgenia Glantzi is studying a Masters at Edinburgh and works up to 30 hours a week in a retail store, which is considered close to full-time. Like Sophie, she’s acknowledged it “would be easier to quit”. The physical and psychological strain is making it harder to keep going.
Universities and the Government are increasing funding
Universities and the government are working together to make positive changes. The Department of Education has acknowledged the need for more funding, with an extra £15m available to students who need additional support.
Universities are also doing everything they can to increase their hardship funds. Leeds Beckett has doubled its funds from £1.5 million to £3 million. Other universities, such as Manchester and Essex, are also working on doing the same.
Giving access to free transport, food banks and eating schemes
Some universities also provide free transport between campuses to help students get to their lectures. And they can also access cheaper hot meal options and emergency supply boxes whilst on campus.
Food vouchers, food banks and eating schemes are providing that extra support to those in need. As for those who can’t afford to turn heating on, some universities are staying open for longer so students can study in a warm environment.
A large part of making a real difference is encouraging students to speak up. Student Unions are asking students to engage in regular discussions with their representatives to understand and monitor what they’re going through.
But long-term solutions are still needed
While these initiatives are effective short-term, the government and universities still need to work together to find long-term solutions. Higher education should be open to all, but if costs keep rising the financial barriers will simply become too much for some to overcome. And the diversity across the system will start to falter.
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