Now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased across UK universities, you would assume that students will be enjoying their newfound freedoms of student life as it was before the pandemic. However, studies have shown that students today are facing a new challenge financially. For most UK students, the average maintenance loan falls short of covering living costs by £439 per month.

Maintenance Loan falls short of covering living costs by £439
Source: Stanley Morales, Pexels

Cost of Living versus Maintenance Loan 

Students are known for being a more vulnerable group in society. For instance, in having to put up with exploitative landlords and poorer housing conditions. The current cost-of-living crisis has reiterated that vulnerability amongst the UK student population.

Huge cost of living increases has not been matched by student finance services. These services have continued to increase student maintenance loans by minuscule percentages. The maximum funding from 2022 to 2023 has increased by 2.3% for English students. Elsewhere, it has increased by 4.5% for Scottish students, 3.5% for Welsh students and 0% for Northern Irish students. Compared to the projected 14% inflation in the UK, the maximum funding increases are clearly insufficient in supporting UK students.

Every month on average, students spend £924 – a 14% increase from the previous year, which coincides with inflation increases. This demonstrates the toll that the cost-of-living crisis is having on the student population.

Household bills and transport are the most affected financial areas, due to the increased energy prices. In response, the UK government has enforced a £2,500 energy bill cap. However, energy bill prices for the average UK household are still almost double their 2021 equivalent.

Despite government efforts, more needs to be done to support students and other vulnerable people during this time.

How can education help?

A recent survey showed that over 40% of students were not made aware of financial options that are available to them. These financial options include bursaries and grants.  The lack of information regarding the choices that could improve student monetary standings shows a gap in our education system. This knowledge should be well known when making decisions regarding universities, from the point of leaving school.

Furthermore, the lack of financial training in the UK education system could be a contributing factor to the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on students. Almost three quarters of UK students wish they had had access to a better financial education. School lessons on the importance of budgeting and key aspects of navigating finances in the adult world are necessary. Additionally, they would be valuable knowledge in the current climate.

Other ways students are getting by

Student finance is granted based on parental income, which assumes parental figure contribution is consistent across all income backgrounds. However, this assumption is problematic as many students report that they do not receive enough financial support from their parents. Parental figures are also dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. Without the support of a student loan to aid them, parents are having to tighten purse strings on student allowance. Subsequently, putting more pressure on student finance schemes to provide.

Maintenance Loan falls short of covering living costs by £439
Source: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Other ways of making money such as part-time jobs are on the rise. 62% of students have a part-time job to make up for maintenance loans falling short. Students are also making money through side-hustles such as online surveys and taking part in graduate research experiments. But for many, this still is not enough to cover the additional inflation costs.

Some research shows that some students have turned to sex work to make money on the side. This includes selling intimate photos, starting an Only Fans or sugar dating as the most common forms of sex work. This is a small proportion. 3% of students in a survey have done sex work and 8% would consider it in a cash emergency. However, students should be aware of the funding available to them, through the university or otherwise. No person should have to do things that make them uncomfortable or unsafe for money. Whilst some students report positive experiences with sex work, some feel they must do it out of desperation for money. The financial vulnerability of the student population means the forced use of sex work could increase if awareness is not articulated.

What can students do?

Options for students to access more money is limited due to time and financial experience. Students should speak to student advisors, personal tutors or guidance counsellors about any financial worries they are having. There are also other choices if a student wants a part-time job but cannot afford the time. Apps such as Rover pay you to walk dogs and online surveys will pay you to contribute. It is important that you ask for help if needed, especially in financial matters.

Maintenance Loan falls short of covering living costs by £439
Source: Blue Bird, Pexels

The rise in inflation has caused major problems throughout the UK for many vulnerable people, including students. The subsequent increase in price of living has seen the student maintenance loan falls short of covering living costs by £439 on average. This is causing many people to take on part-time work or search for alternative funding. The call for financial education in schools as well as an increase in government assistance in finances is adamant. The financial vulnerability of students is increasingly high, with little seemingly being done to help. Nevertheless, there are options for any students struggling, within universities, governments, and private companies.

Statistics for this article were provided by the Save the Student survey.