NUS calls for a student support package as one in three students cut back on food to make ends meet

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
  • One in three students have cut back on food for lack of money
  • One in ten students have turned to food banks.
  •  As only one in three find student loans cover their living costs, and only 15% of students have been able to access hardship funding,

As remaining students head back to campuses in England this week, new research from NUS reveals that extreme student hardship is set to continue into the summer.

The pandemic has impacted the incomes of three in five students and 70 per cent are worried about their ability to manage financially. Soaring accommodation costs have led a fifth of students to be unable to pay their rent since January.

Students are also finding that their usual sources of support are running dry: half of students say that the income of someone who supports them financially has also been impacted by Covid-19 and one in ten have taken out bank loans to stay afloat.

Compared to six months ago, more people say they have sought assistance and only 15 per cent have utilised hardship funds available from their institution. Those most likely to report the greatest suffering are already marginalised groups such as disabled students, students of colour, international students and those with caring responsibilities.

A further one in 10 students have turned to foodbanks, a figure that has been steadily increasing this past year.

As we head into summer the situation continues to look desperate for students. Three in four either have a job for the summer or are looking for one but of the 42% actively looking half have no confidence at all they will find one. Over two in three question whether they’ll manage financially in the upcoming summer months.

The findings point to more long-term problems with the affordability of learning; seven in 10 are concerned about their ability to manage financially beyond the pandemic and out of those respondents with a student loan, only a third agree that it covers the cost of living.

Faced with startling evidence of the widespread difficulties facing students across the UK, NUS is calling for a student support package for all students in further and higher education to help them survive the next few months. The different forms of hardship support made available by all four governments has proven inadequate with the majority of students unable to access it. The UK government must urgently unlock further funding to help students make ends meet.

Speaking with Student Times; Larissa Kennedy, NUS UK President said – 

“The scale of the problem is incredibly alarming and clearly shows how the measly amounts of hardship funding offered to students in England haven’t made a dent. Just to match what the governments in Wales and Northern Ireland have offered to students, this figure should be upwards of £700 million. Hundreds of thousands of students have been forced to pay for accommodation they were then told not to live in for much of this year, many are struggling to make ends meet and now getting into debt just trying to access education – the injustice is astounding. The  government must step in with direct payments to students to avoid an entire cohort of students getting into financial ruin.

Ellen Fearon, NUS-USI President added “In Northern Ireland, full time students in higher education received a £500 Covid disruption grant last month as part of the student support package. Despite calls for the scheme to be extended students in further education, part-time and non-EU international these students have been left behind. The fact remains that £500 is a drop in the ocean compared to the disruption and financial hardship students have faced this year, and they will need significantly more support as we enter the summer months.”

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland said –  “We’re seeing rising unemployment, annual student support coming to an end, and the vast majority of full-time students not eligible for Universal Credit. This summer threatens to drive students out of education and into poverty. We need the UK Government to back students financially and our new Scottish Government to invest in Scotland’s students by introducing a student summer payment.”

Becky Ricketts, NUS Wales President  also said  –  “Students in Wales have had more financial support than their counterparts in England but there are still gaps that means not all students have had the help they need, especially considering that they have been excluded from other government financial support schemes. Only the Westminster government can provide the significant and urgent financial relief necessary to ensure all students in Wales – and all Welsh students studying elsewhere in the UK – can be financially secure.”