Figures from the National Student Money Survey have revealed that this year’s maintenance loan will leave the average student £221 short every month. The report states that a staggering 84% of student suffered financial difficulties last year with 66% stating that their maintenance loan was not enough to live on, let alone fuel a passable social life.
The student loan comprises of two parts currently: the tuition loan (up to £9,250) which is paid directly to the university to pay for the student’s education for the year and the maintenance loan, which is supposed to cover the student’s living costs. Research by Save the Student has shown that students need an average of £821 for monthly spending, including rent which comes in at £394 nationally.
Worryingly, the average maintenance loan for a student with a household income of £35k studying away from home and outside of London is £600 – £221 short of the average living cost for a student. The maintenance loan calculation considers the student’s parents/guardians’ income in this figure, with many caught out by the expectation to make up this monthly deficit with their own money. This notion is problematic, especially in the case where a family has more than one child in higher education or are struggling to cover household costs as it is.
“Unsurprisingly, 57% of students think that Student Finance is unfair and unfit for purpose, with many highlighting the unjust expectation placed on parents to pick up the slack.”
The Parental Contributions Calculator shows that parents earning £35k are expected to contribute £1,211 each year with that figure rising to £3,027 for household incomes over £50k. One third of students have said that they don’t receive enough financial support from their parents. The size of the maintenance loan has faced further scrutiny in recent years as other means of financial support such as grants and bursaries are scaled back. Further conclusions made by the survey highlight the damaging effect this has on students. Half of all students reported mental health issues due to the worry over financial stability, with a further 61% stating that they can’t always afford to eat. This is detrimental to many students’ educational experience, with 34% of students’ grades suffering.
With the battle between survival and achieving expected grade calculations, more and more students are facing unnecessary problems that are adding to the many stressors of university life. Unsurprisingly, 57% of students think that Student Finance is unfair and unfit for purpose, with many highlighting the unjust expectation placed on parents to pick up the slack. Many are suggesting that the way maintenance loans are calculated needs to be more considerate of individual circumstances and that there needs to be more advice with aspects of financial education prior to attending university, such as budgeting. With so many students complaining about the difficulty of covering even the most basic living costs, let alone additional expenses such as mobile phone contracts, clothes and books, the manner in which Student Finance calculates the maintenance loan needs to be investigated and perhaps revamped altogether.