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Govt urged to boost maintenance loan amid student rent struggles

Govt urged to boost maintenance loan amid student rent struggles
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

A poll finds over two-thirds of students have struggled to pay their rent, leading to calls for the Government to up maintenance loan funds.

A fifth of students described their situation with paying rent as a ‘constant struggle’, while the burden of living costs had two-fifths (40%) considering ending their degree. Indeed, around one in thirty (3%) dropped out of their course due to the financial strains of rent prices.

Further, due to a mix of reasons including housing affordability, poor condition of a property, and eviction, 7% of the 1,000 undergraduates surveyed experienced homelessness last year.

The findings of the eighth annual National Student Accommodation survey were described as “just as bad as – if not worse than – in 2023” by Save The Student’s (STS’s) Tom Allingham.

Meanwhile, rent prices ranged between private halls, student accommodation, and private landlords, costing an average of £613, £596, and £525 per month respectively. However, student hall prices will in most cases have bills included.

Despite working towards a degree, 14% think they will never be able to buy a house and cited high property prices and dealing with student debt as reasons why.

‘Errors of inflation forecast need to be addressed’

The cost-of-living crisis has even hit students before they’ve had their first lecture. Higher Education Statistics Agency data found students starting their first year are fourteen months older than those studying ten years ago.

As well as expensive food prices and living costs impacting the affordability of university, so is the maintenance loan amount provided, according to the survey.

The amounts were increased by the Government to 2.5% for the 2024/25 term, based on a forecasted inflation rate. This forecast only impacted students in England and this was the system used in 2023/24.

But STS says this is “simply maintaining, if not widening, a real-terms gap created by previous forecasting errors.”

It claims students are around £1,500 worse off due to the loan not matching the hefty increase in food and bills due to inflation.

The loan is available for every student to apply for and is aimed at going towards paying for general living costs for the year, like rent, food, and bills.

Most students are eligible, but there are some criteria, including the length of the degree, age of student, residency status, and whether they’ve studied before, that have a bearing on the amount received.

Results of the survey are ‘deeply concerning’

Tom Allingham, communications director at STS, said: “The results of this year’s survey are deeply concerning, and highlight how life in a cost-of-living crisis is at risk of becoming the new normal for students.

“Many findings are as bad as – if not worse than – in 2023, highlighting how the intensified difficulties students have faced in recent years have not eased, but instead become entrenched. This prolonging of the cost-of-living crisis is largely thanks to below-inflation increases in the maintenance loan in England. And, with just a 2.5% increase announced for 2024/25, these real-terms cuts are becoming baked into the system.

Allingham added: “Action is needed to address the myriad of issues with the availability, quality, and affordability of accommodation – and this must be coupled with a sizeable increase to the loan.

“We’re calling on the Government to increase maintenance loans by well above 2.5% next year, to close the inflationary gap and ensure students can actually afford to cover everyday expenses like rent.”

If you are a student struggling to afford living costs during your degree, here are four options provided to YourMoney.com by STS to help.

Four options to help you pay for university life if you’re struggling

  1. Speak to your university. If you’re experiencing extreme financial difficulties, speak to your university about hardship funding. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be accepted, as universities can be selective about who receives this cash. But if your application is successful, you could receive hundreds or even thousands of pounds of non-repayable support.
  2. Discuss bill prices with your supplier. Although the Government’s energy bill support has ended, energy companies themselves still offer varying levels of help for those who are struggling with the costs. Check with your supplier to see what they can do – you could be given extra time to pay (or payment breaks), a debt repayment plan, or even a hardship grant.
  3. Switch bank accounts. If you’re close to your overdraft limit, see if you can switch bank accounts for a better deal. We’ve compared the best student bank accounts to highlight which ones come with the biggest interest-free overdrafts – probably the safest and most easily accessible form of extra cash while you’re at uni.
  4. Look into bursaries, grants, and scholarships. There’s lots of support out there, and funding isn’t just limited to the traditional groups, such as those from a low-income background or with the highest grades. Some of the more unusual funds include one for being a vegetarian, and another for having the surname ‘Graham’.