University of York budgeted £6,689,000 towards cost of living support


Gracie Daw's Freedom of Information Request reveals university's funding support

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By Gracie Daw

Through a Freedom of Information Request, Nouse can reveal that the University of York budgeted £6,689,000 towards cost of living support for students. As of 22 May 2023, £4,018,087.32 of this budget had been spent.

The University introduced a series of their own support schemes through a Cost of Living Hub launched to help students with the cost of living crisis which includes the Student Support Fund, emergency loans, Household Energy Grant, benefits and tax credits, food vouchers, budget food on campus, free food events, free laptop loans, no library fines, free period products and free work wardrobe.

Introduced for this year was the Household Energy Grant and the hiring of Cost of Living Advisors (COLAs) for each college who were students who could offer advice about money-saving tips during the cost of living crisis. The Household Energy Grant was launched in October and offered households £150 to tackle the rise in energy bills.

To receive the grant, students had to meet all of the eligibility criteria, which included the household being an all-student household, the household being within the City of York Council boundary or within a radius of 40 miles of the University for full-time students and 60 miles for part-time students, the household being exempt from council tax, utility bills being excluded from rent payments and all students being registered and participating in active study.

The University said that the grant could support around 2,200 York-based student households.The Household Energy Grant was criticised by YUSU President, Pierrick Roger, and Community and Wellbeing Officer, Hannah Nimmo, for having too strict of a criteria and therefore excluding many students. In particular, they criticised the grant for being per household rather than per student.

Pierrick and Hannah’s recent announcement of the Off Campus Rent Grant emphasised that they have rectified their concerns with the Household Energy Grant criteria through this policy. A University spokesperson said: “The grant was in line with similar initiatives, such as the government’s Energy Bill Support Scheme and the Cost of Living tax rebate.

“For the next academic year of 2023/24, there will be targeted sup-port through the Off Campus RentGrant, which will help students returning in their second or subsequent years to get support towards increased rent costs.

“This support is being put in place as a direct response to student feedback and the rising prices of private rental accommodation in York, and will be offered on an individual basis to eligible students rather than a whole student household.”

Nouse can reveal that of the 2,200 York-based student households which the Household Energy Grant set out to support, 328 households claimed the household energy grant up until 22 May 2023. This totals £49,200 spent directly on Household Energy Grants.The University responded to Nouse, saying that “while there is the capacity to support up to 2,200 households where were identified as being eligible, we are pleased that we have been able to help more than 300 households so far.”

Politics student Josh Chapman, who is currently on placement in Leeds and living with another placement student, claimed the Household Energy Grant, emphasising the support offered as part of it. However, he criticised the eligibility criteria, saying that it meant many placement students could not claim it as they would live further afield, often in London.

A University spokesperson said: “The scheme was designed to support eligible York-based all-student house-holds, who were not eligible for the partial Council Tax rebate intended to help with the impact of rising utility bills.

“The eligibility criteria was based on the University’s attendance and residence guidelines, which included for the household to be within the City of York council boundary or within a radius of 40 miles of the University for full-time students and 60 miles for part-time students.”

The University also introduced COLAs who have operated per college to provide students with cost of living advice, hosting events and providing resources on six-month contracts, working five hours a week. As part of the Cost-of-Living budget, £12,742.99 was used to pay their salaries up until 24 April 2023. The hub has been widely advertised, with banners and cards displayed around the University.

A total of £2,839.10 has been used for the promotion of the Cost of Living Hub to 22 May 2023. It was emphasised that much of the marketing for the hub was free, through social media, email, newsletters, plasma screens, and through teams based in the Col-leges, Student Hub, and the COLAs.