It seems that students are being left to face the harsh realities of adult life at university, with one third of university students quizzed by Save the Student’s National Student Money Survey believing that their parents do not give them enough financial support.
The survey found that the average student in 2014 spends £735 a month (5% less than in 2013), whilst a typical maintenance loan only covers £458 of this. Student Finance was created in order to help with university living costs, and as the amount set is based on means, at face value this seems fair. However, for many students in families that have an average income, it appears that the government is still expecting families to pay towards it. One student commented; “My student loan doesn’t even cover my rent for a year. I have to borrow £1,000 off my parents and then use an overdraft, credit cards and savings (that I have none of now) to put me through uni each year”.
Nearly 20% of students admit to relying on their parents for income, and with a difficult job market, just one-in-six have a part-time job to keep themselves afloat. Universities do have financial safety nets in place for students who are struggling with money, but this is offered to just 10% of students. To many, this may seem like the biggest slap in the face since tuition fees were raised to £9000 a year in 2012. That said, only 8% of students said they would turn to their university for financial help if needed, with a quarter of students preferring a bank loan. Perhaps students are tired of university being so closely associated with money and debt that they feel they cannot turn to their university in a financial emergency. The stress resulting from having money worries is having a knock-on effect on broader student welfare too, with almost one-half of those surveyed claiming that money issues affect their academic studies and almost two-thirds admitting that their diet suffers due to a lack of money, particularly as healthier food options are so much more expensive than ready-made meals or frozen pizzas.
It is clear that the Student Finance system is severely flawed, with students from middle class backgrounds hardest hit; “Just because my parents are together I get hardly any money in comparison to someone with divorced parents who gets the maximum, even though one parent is richer than both of mine put together”. However, whilst many students believe that their parents could do more to help, most are grateful they’re able to support them at all. Others would rather be fully responsible for their own financial situation than approach their parents, “I’d rather accept more debt and not be reliant on my parents!”, said one student.
Jake Butler, Editor of Save the Student, said:
“The government must increase the maintenance loan amounts to cover basic living costs. It’s a thorny issue of how much parents should contribute to the shortfall, and it entirely depends on individual circumstances. Ultimately I don’t believe parents should have the expectation put upon them. However with hearing daily horror stories of students living on the breadline, I feel it’s still important that parents are made more aware of the situation their child at university may be in.”
Considering that many parents would not be able to support their child at university under extraneous circumstances in the current economic climate, it is not that parents will not help students, more that they simply can’t. Perhaps parents can help students more in other ways, through emotional support and food shopping, and put pressure on the government to provide more realistic loans for students.