Parents are being left to pick up the tab as government support for students is eroded to its lowest level in seven years, claim university leaders, with 38% of students saying that they have had to rely on financial help from family and friends.
The 14-year freeze in parental earning thresholds – used to calculate student loans – and the fact that the value of student loans has not kept up with inflation, have left poorer families paying more each year to support their children at university.
The new government’s emergency budget on Friday is expected to include measures to cut corporation tax, national insurance, and help for ordinary households, such as the original Energy Bills Support Scheme. However, there are fears that students may miss out on support that other people are receiving.
University leaders are warning that help for students must not come out of the research budget, following the commitment made by the previous administration to spend 2.4% of GDP on research and development.
Polling by Savanta ComRes for Universities UK indicates that there is anxiety about the cost-of-living crisis amongst the student population:
- 67%) are concerned about managing their living costs this autumn.
- Over half of those concerned (55%) say this might prevent them from continuing their studies.
- Postgraduate students, particularly those engaged in research, are more likely to be concerned about costs than undergraduates.
Universities are taking action to help students struggling by increasing their emergency financial assistance funds, and want to work with the government to ensure all students are supported. It is unclear how business support will work at this stage, but universities intend to pass on savings to students. Those worrying about their financial situation are urged to seek practical advice and wellbeing support from their university.
Universities would also like to do more to help students, but say the tuition fee freeze in England means that they are operating with an already stretched funding base.
“Students risk becoming the forgotten group in the cost-of-living crisis. We need the government to work with us and provide targeted hardship funding to protect them now, before their living costs become so high that they are unable to keep studying.
“The value of maintenance loans has been steadily eroded. Parents and families are struggling with bills themselves, and now they are having to pick up the tab and support their children directly due to declining levels of government support.”Professor Steve West CBE, President, Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor, UWE Bristol
Universities are calling for:
- Targeted government hardship funding for UK students.
- The reinstatement of maintenance grants for those most in need.
- Action to ensure that support for students is protected against inflation.
- Increased financial support for postgraduate researchers.
- Government action to support people with rising costs, such as energy, to be accessible to students across the UK, including those in halls.