Forgotten by the government, universities cannot help all their students. More must be done during the cost of living crisis to support students.
Everybody has been struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Most notably, energy bills have gone up so much that we’re afraid to turn our heating on. It’s now December and no amount of extra blankets and cups of tea can fend off the freezing temperatures long enough to be comfortable.
Some provisions have been given by the government. They’ve reached into their pockets and given us £400 from October until May to help with costs. They’ve capped the prices at a very reasonable £3000 from April 2023. That’s more than 10 per cent of lots of people’s income. To say that it isn’t enough, well, isn’t enough.
And while we are all struggling, students are being given even less with most not being offered the £400 either.
The Cost Of Living Support For Students Isn’t Enough
Students who rent from a landlord or use companies such as Fused or UniHomes will be notified that their £400 allowance has been given to their landlord or provider.
However, students in halls receive nothing. You may think, well that’s because their bills are included in their rent. Although that is correct, student housing prices have increased considerably in recent academic years so that accommodations can keep up with inflating energy bills.
Student loans, however, have not kept up and the poorest students are now £1000 worse off in 2022. That figure is not set to improve.
And if it isn’t energy bills, then it’s the food shop. UK supermarkets have all been hiking up their prices due to distribution and sourcing issues, as well as manufacturing costs. Students, who are very unlikely to be entitled to any more money than their maintenance loan, are being left to fend for themselves. That isn’t the kind of independence young people are seeking when making the move to university.
For context, earlier this year 1 in 10 students were having to use a food bank. A third of students were found to have £50 or less to live on after paying bills and rent. That was before the hike in prices in October.
These are our brightest stars for the future, but there the first dip in the adult pool is freezing them out of much hope for the future. So much so, there is a serious worry that fewer young will study at university because they worry about the immediate financial implications — let alone paying back their student loan.
Universities Are Having To Step In
It seems that every other day another university is launching a scheme to support students during the cost-of-living crisis. Recently, we reported that York St John were launching a larder full of free food and essentials for struggling students. They aren’t the first, and they certainly won’t be the last.
The University of Sheffield launched a cost-of-living hub for students and staff in November. This was after an increase in staff returning to work at the university because of the cost of energy prices at home. The university had already added to its financial support and encouraged students to take part in extracurricular activities on campus to keep warm.
It’s hard to imagine that parents sending their children off to university are crossing their fingers that they’ll be able to keep warm, let alone succeed in their degree.
In October, Warwick University announced a £3.5 million cost-of-living support package after opening their arts centre for locals to keep warm.
These are just three of the dozens upon dozens of ways that universities have stepped in where the government happened. Remember, each student pays £9,000 a year for their course, so it’s more than likely that the help they are receiving is partly funded by what they’re paying anyway.
University leaders have asked the government to step in, but they only seem to be moving farther away.
Where Is The Government?
This cannot be the start in life we want for the next generation. But unfortunately, it was similar during the pandemic too. Students are forgotten by the government, tarnished with an unfair stigma of spending all their money drinking and clubbing. In reality, they’re hovering by the thermostat or wondering how long they can make the last dregs of milk last.
I say this, knowing nothing will be done. But it should be. If MPs can be paid £400,000 in an all-expense paid trip to Australia trip for 3 weeks, or avoid paying millions tax in the country that they run, then surely there’s at least a handful of change that can be thrown at students.
But it will always be a question of, ‘what do they need it for?’ or, ‘well, someone else needs it more.’
For now, universities will try to help students get through their courses. But what about after that?
Forget about buying a house, going on holidays, or even just enjoying life when you’re young. Just worry about where your next meal will come from for now.