The cost of living crisis is coming down hard on our future doctors, lawyers and teachers – leaving many of them to skip meals and sleep in the freezing cold, which has left many students asking the same questions: Why is the student loan still the same, and how university has become hell?
Energy bills and groceries are the top two priorities for UK citizens, leaving university students struggling in a way that is almost impossible for them to live with. Rent, food, electricity, and gas are just a few of the bills students, who are already surviving on a very small amount of money, are expected to pay, but with everything rising in price yet there has been no change to the student loan amounts.
The pressure that comes with moving away from home is difficult enough without having to fear the financial endeavour. Every student knows that money does not come easy at university, but when it gets to the stage of not being able to live without laying waste to any funds they may receive, they are left to wonder how much longer they can live like this.
Vince Heporochi, is 19 years-old and a first year student at London College of Communications, part of the University of the Arts London (UAL) and is currently staying in accommodation in Elephant and Castle. He is struggling to live with his current financial situation.
Vince told us: “Finding reasonably priced items to grab in my weekly shop is really difficult, the foods that are supposed to be cheap for students such as beans, pasta and rice are more expensive than I was originally told they where, and eating at my university seems unjustified due to how expensive it has become.”
When it comes to saving money, Vince explains that “I’m not really sure there is a way to save money at the minute. I already walk everywhere instead of getting public transport and I always have the cheapest meals I can find, but some days I skip meals because I don’t want to waste money.
“I have a job as a barista locally but it is not as helpful as you would believe. With the amount of work I do, coinciding with my education, I don’t get a chance to work more than two days a week and that money gets eaten by my essential buys.”
What does Vince think could help? “If we could provide the students this country with a little more funding to live their day-to-day lives that would be very helpful, it would get rid of the stress that already comes with university and benefit those who truly need the money. There are people who are in even worse situations than me at the minute and that is inhumane.”
Recent studies shown by NUS tell us that the ‘cost of living crisis rises see 96% of students cutting back‘. With statistics such as ‘a third of students are living on less than £50 a month after paying rent’ it leaves us to wonder how the universities are attempting to lend a hand.
UAL recently sent an email to their students asking them to inform the university on how they can help. The email reads ‘financial worries at university can significantly affect your ability to study and overall wellbeing. We want to know how the cost of living crisis is affecting you’.
An attempted is being made by the university to understand the troubles of those attending, in the near future we may seen action taken to assist the UAL, students such as Vince.
Although Vince is having a tough time, he says there are students who have it even worse and from what Maddie Barker told us, she may qualify as one of them.
Maddie is a 20 year-old who is in her third and final year at the University of Portsmouth which she has found drastically different to other years. Unlike her two previous years at university, Maddie is struggling to survive on her student loan.
“I have struggled with everything this year but what I have found the hardest to manage is the gas. Our gas bills have been so extortionate since coming back for this year that we have stopped turning on our heating and it has left us to freeze for a whole month. I have no idea how we are going to cope in the winter with the temperature going into the minuses,” Maddie tells us.
“My house is almost paying double what we paid last year per month due to the cost of heating. By refusing to turn the heating on, we have been able to save some extra cash which we have to spread across all of our essentials. We cannot cut our food bills anymore, as we already barely shop as it is and the whole house tries to use as little of the electricity as possible, some days the lights don’t even get turned on.”
We asked Maddie what she thinks we should do to help students with the cost of living going up, and she told us: “From a student’s point of view I’m not sure what else we can do. I already have two jobs and it’s taking up a huge part of my life, if I didn’t work I wouldn’t be able to afford my student books or even food at this rate and because of this, I rarely have time to focus on my studies.”
NUS have found studies that show ‘Most students said the value of their maintenance package is not enough to afford the weekly shop, transport to their education provider or energy bills. The data also highlights a cost-of-learning crisis, with 75% of students saying they would not be able to continue to afford course materials without more support’, Maddie falls into this catorgory alongside 3 quarters of the countries students.
Recently, the MP for Portsmouth South and Democracy and Campaigns Officer Dom met to address the cost of living crises and student housing difficulties for Portsmouth university students. The student union of Portsmouth university released a Facebook post about the meeting where they say ‘Dom gave Stephen Morgan a copy of the ground-breaking Housing Survey results, detailing the housing experiences of students in Portsmouth’ showing us that Portsmouth students are also pushing for a change.
If we do not see a change in the cost of living crisis soon, it is certain that life will only get worse for students, and both Vince and Maddie are just two examples which are reflected in student communities all over the country.
After hearing their stories it is evident that the lack of support cannot continue for any longer or the future generations will not even be able to attend university, which means it is time for a change in support of all students.
Feature image by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay
Edited by Rella Jefferies and Sophie Patrick