New report sets out recommendations to help struggling students.
Maintenance support should be inflation-proofed and rent controls should be implemented to support students with the cost of living, according to policy proposals made by the National Union of Students (NUS).
Warning that students have been left behind by existing support, NUS has published its ‘Student Cost of Living Report’ off the back of research showing that a third of UK students have £50 or less to live on per month after paying rent and bills.
The report was prepared in collaboration with the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and draws on recent research carried out by NUS, Save the Student! and others.
Despite inflation reaching double digits, the value of maintenance loans for students in England has only increased by just over 2%.
In addition, students have been forgotten in existing cost of living support schemes, with students facing a postcode lottery accessing council tax rebates and full-time students completely frozen out of Universal Credit.
The report makes the following recommendations to the government:
- Tie student maintenance support with inflation
- Stress test all cost of living support schemes to ensure they work for students
- Reform Universal Credit to include fair access for students
- Cap student rent to prevent a student homelessness crisis
- Provide funding to education providers to deliver improved hardship funds
- Adjust maintenance loan thresholds to reflect changes to family income
Recommendations are also directed at education institutions:
- Ensure hardship funds are as simple to access as possible
- Make food on campus as cheap as possible and provide food vouchers
- Cap their rents, increase the number of affordable rooms, and support students unable to secure a place in halls
- Increase the pay of apprentices they hire in line with the living wage
- Provide travel subsidies
- Tailor support from careers services to help students who want or need to work
NUS Vice President Higher Education, Chloe Field, said:
“We urgently need the government to inflation-proof student loans and maintenance loans, bring in legislation to control student rent to avoid a homelessness crisis, and provide additional funding to education providers to bolster hardship funds.
“In addition to specific support, the government must ensure that students are no longer excluded from general interventions intended to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis such as energy grants and one-off payments to households.”
Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), said:
“The evidence is overwhelming that the most urgent and pressing issue for students in 2022 is not fees, it is day-to-day living costs.
“Sadly, to date the Government at Westminster has largely ignored students when it comes to tackling the cost-of-living crisis, with – for example – English maintenance loans going up by just over 2% while inflation surges past 10%."