When Theresa May announced plans to conduct a year long review into university tuition fees this week, most of us had the same response: ‘Oh for fuck’s sake Theresa.’
The proposal suggested that studying certain subjects at uni (mainly humanities) should be charged at a lower fee. It was yet another attempt by the government to help students financially, but instead, it raised more concerns about further limiting the educational opportunities of low income households and deterring people from pursuing careers where there is currently a skills shortage.
The bottom line, though, is that the government don’t seem to quite understand what is forcing UK students to become financially crippled. Is it the price of tuition? Possibly. Is it the price of a pint? I mean, it could be cheaper. Is it the price of rent? Well, it certainly doesn’t help. So what is it?
According to Save the Student, the UK’s leading student money advice site, new figures show that the culprit is, in fact, Student Finance. But wait… surely by laying the blame here we are biting the hand that feeds us? Well, the data would suggest otherwise.
The survey in question asked students about their accommodation and revealed that 44% struggle to keep up with paying their rent. This should come as no surprise considering that 95% of an individual’s maintenance loan is eaten up by rent. You see, the average monthly rent is £566 leaving a measly £36 to pay for everything else. Everything. Else. Literally. From travel and books to food and clothing. Is it any wonder young people graduate with a huge overdraft, credit card bills and a terrible relationship with money?
“I had to pay £2,500 this term for my accommodation. Student Finance only gave me £1,700” said one participant of the survey. And another admitted that, "Rent, fees and food being expensive means at times I’ve had to not eat in order to pay my rent." We are pushing people onto the poverty line when all they are doing is trying to get a better level of education.
Aren’t we, then, setting young people up to fail- creating huge student debt in an already bruised economic climate that cannot meet the demand for graduate jobs? And this financial struggle has a massive impact as it not only limits the things we can do in daily life, but also, as 45% of students said, it massively impacts mental health. And what’s worse- yeah, it gets worse- is that 1 in 3 students don’t even think the accommodation they’re paying for is worth it.
Julia, in her second year at Sheffield Hallam, told Save the Student:
“Damp, sewage flood, dripping ceiling, carpet covered in 2cm of toilet water. Broken window that wouldn't close in the middle of December when it was snowing so [it was] extremely cold. Condensation on window flooding desk and destroying uni papers, damaging laptop ... This went on for 6 months, I developed several chest problems and colds during the time and believe it was related to the damp/mould/leaks.”
The government really needs to reassess the fees students are subject to and the financial help that is available to them. It's important that we make steps to safeguard students so that when they are paying hundreds of pounds for accommodation, the conditions they experience are livable and worth the money.
Until then, though, students need to get to grips with managing the small amount of money they do have. For tips, check out here. Or, you can download Loot. The app lets you create daily and weekly budgets and sends you instant transaction notifications to track your spending.