We’ve all heard (or experienced) the horror stories that filter through the halls of residents across the country, regarding student money problems. From having baked beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all the way to things like gambling to pay the rent or selling your clothes just to have enough money for food! But are students really given so little money that they can’t even eat or pay the heating bill when it comes to the end of their loan? For most students in the UK money will be spent on the same things; rent, food, travel and entertainment. Yet many student loans are not even covering the cost of rent, let alone everything else, leaving lots of students living in their overdraft and just consuming more debt than they already have thanks to our countries ridiculous fees.
According to the National Union of Students, the average expenditure for a student living in the UK is £22,189 every academic year. They say the living cost for the average student is £12,056 (£4,834 for rent, £1,956 for food, £316 for household goods, £42 for insurance, £2,074 for personal items, £1,524 for travel and £1,310 for leisure). This is of course on top of the £9000 pound a year they are paying just to attend the university! This seems insane to me, especially as the average student gets about £4000 in loans and many are not even entitled to grants, bursaries or maintenance loans. How can the government expect the young people of today to want to stay in school, and go on to higher education, when effectively they are bankrupting you and making you live on the bare minimum for three years!
Many students aren’t lucky enough to find jobs or have parents who can, or are willing to, support them. I spoke to Jack Tinney, a History student at the University of Portsmouth about whether he felt he was given enough money to live comfortably, he said “I get the bare minimum from my loan, which is £1100 a term, that doesn’t even cover the rent(for one term)! Let alone eating, buying books for uni, having a social life and paying to go home! It shouldn’t be allowed”. Being given so little and not being able to find a job, Jack went on to tell us “Last year I finished uni -1100 in debt because I had no job”.
Too many British students are now in Jack’s position, with Student Finance being so hard to fill out, a lot of students are being given less than they are entitled too. I spoke to the head of student finance information at The University of Portsmouth, Louise Meredith, about whether she felt students have enough to live comfortably. She said:” I think certainly when your getting the full grant and bursary it should be enough to meet your essential costs, especially here in a place like Portsmouth”. She believes student financial struggles aren’t because most of them don’t receive enough money but because they were not taught to budget:” it’s more about learning to budget well. Its something we are trying to implement more into schools and teaching kids how to budget. We go out and do it with kids as young as fourteen, we are trying!” According to Louise, despite the fact that fees have risen and many young people are worried about the cost of university, “more young people are applying to university than ever”. She believes that if anything its parents who are more put off by the idea because “. Parents often have experience of borrowing money, and they hear the phrase loan and they think of house mortgages or personal loans and they think interest”.
It may well be the case that many young people, looking at going to University are simply not given all the facts they need. I feel that the government should be doing a lot more to prepare teenagers about things like budgeting, paying bills and doing food shops. Many students go off to University having never once had to manage their money, and its no wonder you hear so many horror stories. University should be affordable for anyone in any financial situation, but it’s down to schools and the government to teach the young people this, and let them make an informed decision on their future. University is still very much an investment to young people, and with the right information on budgeting, it is accessible to anyone.