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21st November 2023

The student rent crisis isn’t just a financial burden, it’s an academic one too

Not only do students face academic and social pressures at university, but they face a financial one too: being used as cash cows by the rental market and the government
The student rent crisis isn’t just a financial burden, it’s an academic one too
Credit: Ethan Wilkinson @ Unsplash

Students, already burdened with academic pressures, are now ensnared in a rent crisis of staggering proportions. The unchecked surge in housing and rent costs isn’t just a market fluctuation; it’s a calculated assault on the financial well-being of students.

The rise in rent costs, across Manchester and the rest of the UK, serves as a testament to a housing system exploiting the vulnerability of an already financially strapped generation. As housing costs skyrocket, students face a grim reality: sacrificing their budgets, juggling multiple jobs, and even compromising their education to meet these extortionate demands.

In this saga of inflated housing costs, universities play a stunning role – spectators. While students grapple with escalating rents, the University of Manchester’s silence is deafening. Despite being the cornerstone of student life, their apparent obliviousness to this financial crisis is astounding.

Back in 2022, over 40,000 students at the University of Manchester received £170 in a cost-of-living support payment, yet there is no mention of this payment reoccurring this year. Are they actually convinced that no students are facing financial strain anymore, or is this ignorance a more malicious choice?

If you felt the sting of this year’s rent surge, here’s a not-so-fun fact: next year’s rent forecast is painting an even bleaker picture. Manchester witnessed a staggering surge in rental rates, hitting an average of £220 per week in May 2022, which soared to a jaw-dropping average of £266 per week by May 2023.

It’s not just an increase, it’s a blatant display of profit-chasing by housing companies, mercilessly squeezing students who are already drowning in financial strain. This exploitation reflects their utter disregard for providing affordable housing options, leaving students grappling with an unjust and burdensome reality. Not only are student housing companies hiking their rent costs, but private halls are also jumping on the bandwagon with their own increases.

Multiple private hall companies have upped their rent costs for the upcoming 2024/2025 academic year, ensuring students get an extra dose of anxiety and worry about funding their accommodations. Because why not add more stress to the (already overwhelming) student life, right? Manchester Student Village – a private hall operated by ‘Dwell’ – have recently increased their prices for the next academic year from £135 to £139 a week for a Bronze non-ensuite room, and £163 for a silver non-ensuite. The gold ensuite room pushes a student’s rent to £208.

These extortionate hikes will batter current and prospective students next September. It’s a financial bombshell waiting to explode on their budgets, leaving them to juggle rent hikes alongside their textbooks. It’s a precarious balancing act that jeopardises not just student’s education but their well-being, pushing them into a cycle of stress and uncertainty that shouldn’t be the norm in pursuing higher education.

So what exactly can be done to help students, not just here at the University of Manchester, but across the whole of the UK? Well, let me just say what the whole student body thinks – increase our student loans to match the rising inflation and rent costs!

Increasing student maintenance loans seems like the only logical solution to combat these soaring rent costs, yet Student Finance England (SFE) refuses to. SFE’s refusal to hike up maintenance loans in line with inflation, despite the glaring surge in rent costs, is beyond infuriating.

It’s a blatant disregard for students struggling to make ends meet, perpetuating a system that favours the financially privileged and shuts doors of opportunity for those with limited means. Their indifference to this pressing issue is a slap in the face to every student battling financial hardships just to pursue an education.

The stark reality is that the current system is failing its students, pushing them towards financial instability. It’s time for universities, housing companies, and governmental bodies to step out of their comfort zones and take substantive measures, to tackle these soaring housing and rent costs. Whether through increased financial aid, rent control policies, or collaborative efforts between universities and local governments, a joint approach is imperative.

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