According to a recent survey, nearly a third of undergraduate students have gone without food for a day or more to help cope with the costs of living at university, while one in ten have been forced to rely on foodbanks.
The study, performed by online forum The Student Room and using a sample of 860 students between the ages of 16 and 25, suggests that many students are struggling to meet the challenges of the rising cost of living, as well as tuition fees that are “the highest in the world” (according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development).
Some students are turning to drastic measures in an attempt to make money. 41 per cent of respondents claimed they had either sold drugs on campus to cope with living costs or knew someone who did, and another 35 per cent said the same about working as an escort or exotic dancer. 13 per cent admitted to entering into a relationship with a “sugar daddy/mummy” to make ends meet.
The survey also revealed that 13 per cent of students also admitted to stealing to make ends meet. Again, hunger was reportedly a common motivator: the most common item stolen was food, which 79 per cent of these students confessed to taking, followed by alcohol and money (51 per cent) and electrical equipment (40 per cent).
Further data from respondents showed that one in 10 students have used payday loans to get by, while 12 per cent of students have turned to gambling and 20 per cent have been forced into moving back in with their parents. Other students have tried to save money by sharply cutting their reliance on utilities, with one in five saying that they use no electricity or heating for a week or more.
President of YUSU, Ben Leatham said: “Students who are struggling to make ends meet while at University should get in touch with the advice support centre team here at YUSU. The ASC team can provide guidance in financial support, and in applying for University support grants such as the Hardship Fund.
“We are increasingly seeing this becoming a nationwide issue and we need to be doing more to pressure the government into taking action against a clear lack of support for this new generation of students.”
Hannah Morrish, university community manager at The Student Room, said that their findings proved that many students were “vulnerable…not just financially, but socially as well”, with one in five students taking on more than one job in an attempt help with paying the bills.
Morrish added that “for any students who are struggling to make ends meet we want to stress that there is an active and easy to access support network available”. The University offers emergency loans if needed due to “unexpected financial hardship at any point in the academic year”, which students can apply for online.
The Student Room’s research follows a new decision from the government to withdraw maintenance grants awarded to the poorest students, instead replacing them with loans that will have to be paid back once the recipient earns more than £21,000 a year. This decision has drawn fire from the National Union of Students, who claim that existing grants are “not keeping pace with the rise of living costs”.
Megan Dunn, NUS national president, has argued that “the scrapping of maintenance grants is an enormous change that would affect thousands of students, but the government has failed to recognise just how widespread the impact would be. The most marginalised students would be the worst affected.”