STUDENT VOICES: Are Student Finances Destroying the “University Experience”?

Open scene.

You’re eighteen. It’s August. You’re eagerly awaiting your A-Level results to see if you’ve gotten the grades you need to get into Uni (unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky ones given an unconditional in the Spring). The whole situation is incredibly nerve-wracking; the prospects of a new city, total self-sufficiency and leaving family and masses of friends at home can be both exciting and terrifying.

It can be a bold career move, if you’re serious about it. And anyway, everyone talks about the Uni “experience”, don’t they? Pub-crawls, all-nighters, socials… From early sixth-form, we’re fed the idea that a chunk of University is one big party. It’s no surprise, then, that we so easily forget what a massive responsibility it is, and are shocked with the reality of expenditure – and the stress it can cause. With three-quarters of students in a recent survey by Student Money Saver  admitting to money worries, it’s an issue that’s proving increasingly problematic – and one that may affect the University “experience” that we (quite literally) buy into.

This is particularly poignant at the University of Brighton, where buses remain pricier than those in the capital (though thankfully, we can rely on the Big Lemon most of the time), and the cost of living is forever increasing – you can see our January article on rent for students here. To an outsider, with all our loans, grants and bursaries (as well as those never-ending parties), it may seem like a student’s lifestyle is pretty idyllic, especially with the south coast’s beaches right up the road. But, although many of us study our courses over full-time hours, the payback continues to fall short of what is reasonable to live on, and – to be frank – we’re starting to feel the pinch, as many students resort to taking part-time jobs to complement an ever-expanding schedule.

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First year student, Jodie Simpson says: “It’s hard relying on just a part time bar job to constantly pay for things like food, transport and text books, as my maintenance loan doesn’t even cover my accommodation costs”. She’s not alone: Student Money Saver’s survey reports that 73.8% of UK students say their maintenance loan is not enough to live on. It’s oddly reminiscent of our younger years of saving up to buy the newest Pokémon release on Gameboy Advance (just me?), except that this time the stakes are much higher as 41% of students regularly skip meals due to money worries, and 28.9% go without central heating.

The effect across the UK is paramount – while a whopping 28.7% of students at some point consider dropping out of Uni due to not being able to afford to be there, as many as a third will resort to desperate measures in order to cover the basics of rent, bills and food. And it’s not as though we’re spending all our money on going out – despite that promise of “never-ending parties”. A recent study by Travel Journalism students showed that most us go out only once per week on average (and try to be as frugal as possible when we do), which is pretty depressing for a buzzing city like Brighton.

In a city like this, something must be wrong for three in five students to disagree about feeling “financially secure” – because, c’mon, what else would stop us from hitting the town (even just for a couple of drinks) five nights a week?

Worried about money? Visit the Student Money Saver website for general advice. Additionally, you could contact the Student Advice Service (available through StudentCentral), or apply for the Student Support Fund during any University year.

By Nammie Matthews

The Verse Staff

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