According to a recent study, the accumulation of university debt — along with extortionate living costs — is contributing to stress and mental health issues amongst students.
The research, conducted by the financial technology company Intelligent Environments, suggests that as many as 75 per cent of students who received a maintenance grant for their studies feel stressed about money, with 39 per cent stating that they could not afford their weekly food shopping and 27 per cent admitting to missing payments on rent.
University debt is even going as far as to damage friendships, relationships, and exam results, but for the most part it is leaving students without the means to be independent.
This is the case for English and French University of Manchester student Gemma, who says: “Now that I’m in final year, with no time for a well-paid job, I’m realising that it was in fact my wages that were helping me stay out of my overdraft every month – now I’m constantly in the red.
“The maintenance loan isn’t enough – I’m lucky that my parents can partially support me, but for people who don’t have that option, it’s a cruel reality.” She also believes that “a lot of people are in genuine need of [greater] maintenance loans”, but there are also “some students who cheat the system”.
The truth, therefore, is that frugality accounts for much more in student life than many expect. Despite this, The University of Manchester is still preparing to raise its own tuition fees from £9000 to £9,250 per year.
Similarly, those with disabilities and special support needs are also being hit significantly hard due to budget cut-backs, but have even less freedom to pursue part time work.
Alex Smith, a University of Manchester second-year languages student, is an example of such a student: “I would identify as a disabled student and have found the lack of funding for students with additional needs to be highly unsatisfactory, I love my course… but times are getting hard… especially for disabled students.
“I attend meetings with a study coach as part of my DSA entitlement, but next year this will be cut… I’m now highly dependent on antidepressants just to cope with the financial burden of university.”
In a statement, The Students’ Union’s Wellbeing Officer Izzy Gurbuz outlined some of the services that the Union offer students who find themselves with money troubles: “Financial pressure can have a huge effect on students’ wellbeing, from worries about debt affecting your mental health, to the need for a part time job leaving you with no time for socialising or sports. £9,000 fees are already too much, which is why we’re asking students not to fill in the NSS, as it’s being used as part of the TEF to raise fees even further.
“The scrapping of maintenance grants and slashes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance have also exacerbated financial problems for students. The Students’ Union Advice Service can give advice on Student Finance and additional funding sources, and they can also provide emergency loans of up to £100. The University also has some great online resources around managing your money here.”
The University of Manchester’s Press Office added: “We know that 4 out of 5 students worry about having enough money to get through the academic year, and that money worries can affect diet, academic performance, and mental health. With this in mind, the University has partnered with Blackbullion, an online financial education resource designed for students. The resource, which is free for University of Manchester students, comprises of a series of online modules helping students to gain skills in saving, budgeting, and more.
“What we love about it is you can access the modules from your phone and get money skills wherever you are. We have also developed a series of online resources with tips and apps to ease the stress of managing money, available through the My Finances tab on My Manchester. Our online support accompanies our Student Support and Advice Service based in the Atrium of University Place where we are happy to speak with students about any money worries they may be having.”