The Glasgow Guardian speaks to students, a food bank and a personal finance expert to find out how students are being affected by the rising cost of living.
The rising cost of living in the UK is affecting people across society, and students are no different. A recent study by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that three in four students in the UK are worried about managing financially. In addition, over half do not believe their student loan or bursary covers the cost of living. With inflation continuing and student loans failing to match its rate, many students are finding themselves struggling and having to take up more hours at part time jobs.
The Glasgow Guardian has spoken to several University of Glasgow students who have confirmed this reality. Coping financially was a stress for a majority of students, with many having to significantly cut spending on social outings and dipping into savings for necessities. One student, Anna*, commented on the anxieties of graduating into the current economic situation: “I’m scared to spend. I’m trying to save my money in case I don’t get a job when I graduate and have to pay council tax while still on a part time wage.”
The collision of the rising cost of living with the student rent crisis has compounded financial problems for a vast number of students. As The Glasgow Guardian was informed, many students had to make sacrifices due to the lacking availability of flats at the start of the year, meaning they had to choose flats with higher rent at the start of the academic year.
Harry* is a student currently at Glasgow but has said that he is transferring university to live in a more affordable city, whilst Andrew* commented: “As living in Glasgow is already expensive, adding the rising cost of living has put a lot of stress on me and heavily affected my mental health. My rent is already double what I am given monthly in student loan by SAAS, and due to health reasons, I had to quit my job in February so my financial situation has often been at the forefront of my mind.”
In order to cope, a number of students have had to borrow money from their parents, which brings its own problems of guilt, especially if their families have been hard hit by the current economic climate. Sarah*, who is a home student, explained that living with her parents who are struggling financially “is anxiety inducing and stressful”. Whilst the University has a hardship fund available for struggling students, Oliver* reflected on the guilt felt when considering using these services: “There are so many others in the same boat I feel guilty using support systems; is my situation really bad enough to take up these resources?”
Many students do not have the option of financial support from their families. “University is already stressful enough without adding all this extra stress on top,” Rachel* told The Glasgow Guardian. “I’m one of the only people on my course who has a part time job, and I’m now going to have to work more to survive, so I won’t be able to spend as much time on university work as my peers – yet we all get graded the same. It just feels so unfair for students who are entirely financially independent.”
Magdalene Enearu from Najra Helping Hands charity in Glasgow told The Glasgow Guardian that the rising cost of living has brought an “overwhelming use” of their food banks, including amongst both local and international students from universities across Glasgow. Magdalene puts the increase of students using their services at 300%.
President of NUS Scotland, Matt Crilly, sent a letter signed by student officers from across Scotland to the Scottish government on 10 May which calls for “investment to ensure that students, staff or our colleges do not bear the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis we face”.
Crilly also states that “the government has failed to adequately support students through the cost-of-living crisis, and many students face yet another summer without financial support”.
The Scottish government has recently announced that £5m will be distributed to help higher education students in financial hardship due to the rising cost of living, suggesting the hardest hit students will be able to access £8,100 per year in bursaries and loans. Students in receipt of the Care Experienced Bursary will also be able to select a new 12 month payment option, meaning they will be able to receive money over summer, but this only comes into place from the 2022-23 academic session.
The Glasgow Guardian spoke to University of Glasgow economics lecturer and expert in personal finance, Dr Georgios Panos, on possible government support: “As this is likely to be only the beginning of a new era of inflation, there is the need for proactive planning to further support students, without exclusions and before hardship occurs.
“The policy menu could involve VAT holidays and drastic reductions to the cost of supporting government policies and green schemes for homes occupied by students, especially those living away from their parents. It is worth noting that Money Advice Scotland and Citizens Advice have dedicated pages with advice regarding ways to facilitate with the rising energy costs, and students should be aware of all related schemes.”
*Names have been changed for the purposes of anonymity.