6th November 2023
How will inflation affect us as students?
Will I be able to cover the rent for my student accommodation/housing?
Will I have to sacrifice studying to take up a new part-time job?
These are all questions that, as students, will bring us a lot of worries. Many already struggle with the previous rise in the price of vital everyday products but the increasing amount of private luxury accommodation is causing a bigger battle for affordable alternatives. Students who can’t afford to pay for more expensive accommodation are being forced to find alternatives that might not include the services they need. This could be a private ensuite bathroom or a studio room depending on individual needs.
Maintenance loans provided by student loan companies are intended to cover the cost of living. But what happens when that’s just not enough? The amount a student can receive for a maintenance loan is means tested against their household income. The more money parents/carers earn, the less help you can apply for. For example, a household income of £58,222+ only allows a maximum loan of £3,410. This is a high household income admittedly, but what if parents/carers are not willing to help out as much as is needed? Or if there is already a lot of outgoings in the household that parents/carers cannot afford to help? Students may have to make sacrifices on which university they attend for another one for which the accommodation is more affordable. Some may have to commute from home, which may, in some circumstances, dampen the university experience.
In 2018, students at Durham University saw a rapid increase in accommodation costs, rising to £7,171 a year. Rent became more expensive than ‘the cost of repayments on a mortgage on a two-bedroom new build house’, sparking a student-led protest. Despite this, the university went ahead with the increased prices. Other protests like this have happened around the country. Similarly, an article from The Guardian found that UK students pay 60% more for accommodation compared to prices 10 years ago. Rent averages at £7,347 per year, which is more than a typical maintenance loan. Some students are having to take up jobs alongside university to be able to afford the cost of living.
Accommodation isn’t the only thing students are struggling with. Certain foods like fruit and vegetables have increased in price, meaning students are less able to afford healthy lifestyles. Inflation rates have risen to 5.4% in the last year and may continue to rise. Save The Student conducted a survey on the financial concerns of students. One key thing found from this research was that so many students struggle to make ends meet. Something repeatedly mentioned is the inability to afford food and that maintenance loans offered only give enough money for rent. There is not enough to afford food and getting a job to combat that is nearly impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this survey, 47% of respondents say their diet suffers due to money worries. Additionally, 41% say these worries are why they have considered dropping out of university.
With all these worries, students are much less likely to be able to enjoy university life. Certain aspects of it are why many decide to go to university in the first place, like meeting new people. If so many jobs are making university degrees a prerequisite to joining the company, more help should be offered to enable students to successfully finish their degrees.
I spoke to an incoming international student about their thoughts on inflation and here’s what they said:
As a student who’s doing everything for himself through his own earnings, I believe now there’s a pressure because of rising inflation. I’m an incoming international student and I’m concerned about employment. I want to be able to find job opportunities that give me a sustainable lifestyle and take care of my rent. I’m worried about being able to afford accommodation and food and I’ve already been looking for jobs to take on. I come from a country where the currency is highly depreciated against the pound. I’m excited but nervous at the same time as an incoming MSc student at the University of Liverpool.Anonymous
There were over 600,000 international students pursuing degrees in the UK in the academic year 2020-21. An estimated 84% worry about money during their time at university and currency conversion is an added pressure when you don’t have the support you would at home. As inflation rises, it’s increasingly difficult for an international student to have the security of sufficient finances when they’ve committed themselves to earning a degree in another country.
I also spoke to an undergrad student from the UK who said;
Everything is so much more expensive now: I can’t buy or eat as nice stuff as I used to. I’ve always worried about being able to pay for my rent for student accommodation. I’m very fortunate that I am able to turn to my parents for help, I know that there are so many students who aren’t able to do that. I pre-emptively make sure to buy potentially lower quality food as I know that’s what I have to do stay on top of my budget. Going into a PhD, it’s an enormous worry to be able to afford everything that is needed to run a household. With the stipend I will be on, it’s almost certain that I’ll need to take on an extra job so I can pay for everyday essentials.Thomas Hankinson, Integrated Masters in Electrical Engineering
A survey in 2019 revealed that 19% of PhD students had to take up a part-time job just to make ends meet. The time that could have been used to prepare for the PhD was used to earn extra money for things like travel expenses. Transport costs have been particularly hard hit by inflation and show no signs of easing up. This is a recurring problem for those in any stage of education.
There are a number of things students can do to better their financial situation. Depending on the course being studied, there are various grants and bursaries available. Turn2us provide a grant finder from which the most appropriate charitable grants can be found. There is also Universal Credit, Disabled Students’ Allowance and other financial aid applied for via universities. The University of Liverpool offer a University Hardship Fund and the option to book a Money Advice appointment.
There are also many apps that can help with budgeting. The Stay Club have put together a list of the 10 best budgeting apps for students. Investopedia have also put together a list of their own with different recommendations.
Additionally, depending on the degree and required study time, universities sometimes offer internships and small student jobs. These can be completed on a part-time basis around university commitments. The University of Liverpool regularly posts placements like these on their job site Handshake, which is available through the login portal. More information on internships can also be found on the Santander Universities website.