UK & Irish university students are being hit harder than ever financially with the rising cost of living. According to new research from Universities UK polling by Svanta ComRes, 67 percent of students in higher education are concerned about managing their living costs this autumn with more than half saying that this could impact them continuing their studies. In another report by the credit management company Lowell, it found that three-quarters of students develop personal debt problems while at university with those students all worrying “about making ends meet”, and that 41 percent of students had considered dropping out of university at some point due to money worries.
Financial woes and global economic uncertainty are impacting students’ mental health, which has been steadily declining in the fallout of COVID-19. In particular, statistics from the Office for National Statistics paint a grim picture of the mental state of first-year students. According to ONS, 37 percent of first-year university students surveyed in England have symptoms of depression and anxiety. In July 2022, the National Union of Students found that food bank use by university students rose from 5 percent to 11 percent in just six months with more than a third found to be living on less than £50 a month after paying rent and bills something that could be affected even further following the U turn on the energy bills price cap. The NUS has called this a “breaking point” with 90 percent of students in a 3,500 survey identifying money worries as directly impacting their mental health.
There is increased concern that, if unaddressed, students may drop out of university, impacting retention rates for the institutions and the futures of those leaving university. One report by Student Loans Company found that in August 2022, 40,000 students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland withdrew from their studies because of rising living expenses, a 23 percent increase on figures from 2021.
The NUS is urging for a tailored student cost of living support package and for UK governments to raise the student maintenance package and apprenticeship minimum wage. Speaking to the Guardian, NUS said, “Huge increases to the price of bills, food and living costs coupled with soaring rent has left students on the brink. We’re hearing from students struggling to get by who can’t afford to do their laundry and are cutting back on showers to make ends meet. They can’t even cover the cost of getting to the library or classes…This is having a severe impact on their mental health, being kept awake at night due to finances. We’re seeing stress and anxiety piling on them from bouncing debt between different cards to stay afloat...”
To address these concerns, institutions should be in a strong position to identify students before concerns escalate and these recent reports only reinforce the need for comprehensive support now and to prepare for the residual impacts in a post-COVID world. With Symplicity Advocate, institutions can prepare to best serve their students now and in the future. Our solution helps with early intervention to proactively identify and support students who need help, ranging from mental health issues to financial advice. With automated case management, robust reporting, configurable workflows, and our unmatched client support, institutions can have all the information they need in one place to enable them to help students faster and build a safer community. This includes seeing which staff member is working with which student, setting up virtual support sessions, and providing students with proactive tools to help them cope through this time. Enhancing student wellbeing must be a top priority for all higher education institutions to ensure student success.
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