A recent study by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that one in ten students have turned to foodbanks this year as a result of the cost of living crisis. This figure is six percent higher than in January, 2022.

The research also revealed that half of the respondents have made cutbacks on food, 42 percent have cut back on heating and 35 percent have cut back on electricity. Furthermore, one in ten students are unable to buy sanitary products and one in five can’t afford toiletries. It’s clear the cost of living crisis is having major impacts on students, with nine in ten reporting the crisis has affected their mental health.

The survey, which had 3,500 respondents, found that many students feel that sufficient support is not being offered from the government. As a result, many students have turned to friends and family for support, while others are left struggling. The research noted that a third of students felt educational organisations could be doing more, such as providing financial support and better access to affordable food.

1 in 10 students use food banks during the cost of living crisis
Source: Pexels

However, recommendations from recent report by MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities in the UK, suggest a national effort is required rather than individual educational institutions. The report entitled ‘Learning with the lights off: students and the cost-of-living crisis‘ analysed the impact of the current crisis on 300,000 students and also found huge challenges for students. It warns that there could be a ‘retention crisis’ amongst UK students if the impacts cannot be alleviated.

The report outlines recommendations for the government and the Student Awards Agency Scotland, SAAS. These state that there should be “an immediate increase to maintenance funding”, “an immediate increase in hardship funds for universities” and “better inclusion of students in the wider cost of living assistance programmes announced in September 2022″.

Rachel Hewitt, the Chief Executive of MillionPlus said: “We must challenge the narrative that all students are 18-year-olds and are able to rely on parental support; increasingly with household budgets being squeezed this is not a lived reality.”

She also drew on the fact that maintenance loans are not rising in line with inflation, making it difficult for students to keep up with the cost of living. This means that maintenance loans are now below the National Minimum Wage.

Finally, the report indicates that if the government does not alleviate the financial challenges, there may be a shortage of students. This could have a knock-on effect and do long-term damage to the education and skills agenda.

1 in 10 students use food banks during the cost of living crisis
Source: Pexels

As reported in The Glasgow Times, the Scottish minister for higher education, Jamie Hepburn, claimed the report reinforced the need for the UK Government to act quickly.

He added that: “Most of the key policy levers needed to address the crisis still lie with the UK Government so we continue to urge them to use all the levers at their disposal to tackle this emergency on the scale required to meet the needs of people.”

The Scottish Government has previously made funding available to help alleviate the impacts of the cost of living crisis for university students. Earlier in the year, it was announced that £5 million had been made available to Higher Education students who needed assistance with basic household costs.

There was also a £350 increase made to the loan amount available to students for the academic year 2022-23. Furthermore, there was a change in the way the Care Experienced Bursary was paid, meaning that payments were also being made during the summer.

Meanwhile, 24 Russell Group universities have committed to help students by boosting hardship funds, helping with energy bills and providing free sanitary products.

At the time of this announcement in February Mr Hepburn said: “Many students are facing higher energy bills and increased financial hardship as a result of the cost of living crisis. However, the latest NUS study shows that it is still a worrying time for students.

If you’re worried about the cost of living crisis or any other student-related matter, you can reach out to Student Minds.