Students working at Woodlane Campus, Falmouth University, Falmouth. Image by Lucie Akerman
If mental health is your priority, you’ve probably chosen to ignore the deluge of headlines declaring the imminent rise of UK living costs. Who needs yet another reason to feel stressed out? How bad is it really and what can you do about it anyway?
According to the Student Money Survey 2021, each month the average student’s maintenance loan is £360.00 less than their living costs. For those fortunate enough, parents will make up the shortfall. For others, the only option is to pick up part-time work, often for minimum wage.
Of the five biggest increases, students will dodge the rise in council tax and National Insurance payments, but three will have a direct and imminent impact on the student wallet; food, rent and energy.
Food costs have already risen by 5% in 2022 and are forecast to rise further to 7% by spring 2022. What you pay will be dependent on what you buy and in more bad news for students, economy brands have risen more than premium brands, due to rising production costs and lower profit margins.
In Falmouth housing is already in short supply pushing up the price of rental properties. For those renewing tenancies, rents will increase with inflation. For those starting a new tenancy agreement this increase could be significantly higher.
Due to the global increase in the price of gas, OFGEM has risen the energy price cap by 50% so suppliers can pass on the increased cost to the consumer. The first increase will occur in April with a further 20% increase again in October, compiling a total increase of 70%.
The average rent, food and energy cost for a student in a shared house in Falmouth is £650.00 per calendar month. This will rise to £713.70 on average totalling an increase of £627.00 per academic year.
With living costs increasing, and the student loan staying the same, how many more hours will students have to work whilst leaving enough time to do what they are at university to do: study? What is the impact of not being able to afford university on the learning experience?
One first-year student I spoke with relies on an allowance from her parents to top up her loan which covers her term-time rent only. Knowing her parents are themselves financially precarious leaves her with difficult feelings about taking the money and her entitlement to study, “It does make me think, because I can’t afford to be here, I don’t deserve to be here. I know that’s not the case, but it does feel like that.”
None of the students I spoke with were aware the prices were rising, and when I asked one student why people weren’t talking about it, their answer indicated a wider issue with student finance.
“People are in a very different situation to one another, even when they are under the same roof. There’s a big difference between what people mean when they say they don’t have any money.”
Due to the one size fits all approach of student finance, some slip through the gaps, and those whose parents can’t afford to subsidise their studies are likely to have a more stressful experience of university than those who receive support. While there are bursaries available to students from low-income families these are often nominal one-off payments, and will not necessarily cover the shortfall.
The last student I spoke with is in their third year and recently had to borrow some money from a family member to meet her living costs. During her second year she waitressed 30 hours per week, which had a significant impact on her overall grades for the year.
While working alongside your studies is a universal student experience the volume of part time work matters. For some, working to finance their studies could render studying in the first place pointless. If you are too tired to concentrate and distracted by your financial concerns, how can you participate fully in the learning experience?
READ! MORE ABOUT THE HOUSING CRISIS IN FALMOUTH: