UK cost of living crisis among students: survey reveals 82% of university students have major money worries

Polling by pressure group Save the Student has found more than half of students are considering quitting their degree courses due to financial concerns

The UK cost of living crisis is hitting university students hard with some having to go without food for multiple days in order to afford their rent, a new survey has revealed.

According to the annual National Student Money Survey published by Save the Student - a pressure group for current and recent students - 82% of students are worried about making ends meet while studying.

The survey found daily living costs have risen 14% year-on-year, with average monthly outgoings for students now sitting at £924 a month - £1,089 if they are doing a degree in London.

Financial concerns are forcing university students to drop out before graduating (image: PA)

It comes as the UK is battling its worst cost of living crisis for decades, with inflation sitting at a near-40-year high of 9.9% as energy bills and fuel costs have rocketed.

NationalWorld has found low-income households are also being hit by above-inflation price hikes to supermarket value food and drink ranges.

What did Save the Student survey find?

Save the Student’s annual money survey asked 2,370 university students from across the UK how they are coping with their living costs. The polling was pushed out to student service centres and unions between 17 May and 11 August 2022.

The results paint a picture of students struggling to study effectively due to their money concerns. Some have even questioned whether they can afford to continue with their degree.

Some university students are being forced to turn to food banks (image: Getty Images)

59% of respondents said their mental health was declining as a result of money worries, with a further 47% reporting their diet had suffered and another 38% saying they were finding it hard to sleep.

In the 2021/22 academic year, the survey found one in 10 students had been forced to use a food bank. Financial worries had led 52% of those surveyed to consider dropping out of their university courses altogether.

In terms of where students were getting money from, the proportion getting money from their parents dropped seven percentage points compared to the previous year (66% to 59%). Save the Student said this drop could be as a result of the cost of living crisis.

At the same time, those dipping into their savings rose seven percentage points (50% to 57%). More than half of those surveyed (56%) said they had under £1,000 in savings.

On top of providing figures, the survey also took verbal responses from students about how their finances were hitting their studies.

A freshers student from the University of Surrey said: “I go for multiple days without food to be able to afford my rent.”

Another student from the University of Chichester said: “With the prices of everything going up right now I find it hard to stay positive in life.”

Students have said they are having to make a choice between eating and paying rent (image: Getty Images)

What has the government said about the Save the Student Survey?

Save the Student described the findings as “bleak” and called on the government to do more to help students.

In particular, it urged the Department for Education (DfE) to address the “alarming” gap between students’ living costs and their maintenance loans. It said the average shortfall has increased from £340 in the 2020/21 academic year to £439 a month (a 29% increase) with 66% of those polled saying the support was not enough to live on.

“This is the most worried I’ve ever been about the financial situation students are facing,” said Save the Student’s money expert Jake Butler.

“In a decade of running the National Student Money Survey, this year’s findings are bleak. And we expect much worse is yet to come.

“We welcome the news that energy bills will be capped for two years, but the new rate is still nearly double what households were paying last year. Students are getting the same rate and support as millionaires, despite being among the groups that will continue to struggle.

“Save the Student [is calling] on Liz Truss and the Education Secretary, Kit Malthouse, to take further action to address the Student Loan gap before thousands of students are forced to drop out of university.”

Students are reporting the cost of living is impacting their academic performance (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In response, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We understand global inflationary pressures are squeezing household finances and people are worried about covering the basics.

“To support students with living costs, we have increased maintenance loans every year, meaning disadvantaged students now have access to the highest ever amounts in cash terms.

“Students who are worried about making ends meet should speak to their university about the support they can access. This year universities can boost their hardship funds by drawing on up to £261m we have made available through the Office for Students.”

The government pointed to a 2.3% increase in student maintenance grants and loans as one of the measures it had implemented for English students in the upcoming academic year. However, inflation is currently more than four-times greater than this rise.