Vice-chancellors have urged the new prime minister to cut student loans and warn that during the energy crisis, many will abandon their studies unaided.
University leaders have warned that unless “immediate action” is taken to help students with living costs, they may decide they can no longer afford to study for a degree.
Professor Steve West, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, said ministers should “step forward” with extra money.
“With inflation hitting record highs and utility bills rising, (students) now need extra support before deciding that their livelihoods are so high that they can’t afford to continue their studies,” he said.
He added that “it is time to bring back the maintenance subsidy and make sure it keeps pace with inflation”, after then Prime Minister David Cameron scrapped the payment in 2015 and replaced it with increased maintenance loans.
At the time, the decision was attacked in 2016 by the National Union of Students, which said the change would leave students with “lifetime debt”. The grants were worth around £3,500 and were income-tested based on parental income.
“Universities are targeting available funding for hardship where it is most needed, but as the value of maintenance loans has fallen to its lowest level in seven years, this will not be enough for many,” said Prof. West.
“We need immediate action from the new cabinet to help students through the coming difficult winter.”
Analysis by Universities UK has shown that most current support measures will not help the majority of students, as they mainly target people on means-tested benefits, retirees and families.
Two-thirds of college students — 67 percent — are concerned this fall about their cost of living, according to recent Savanta ComRes polls, rising to 85 percent of college students over the age of 30.
More than half of them (55 percent) said this could deter them from continuing their studies, including eight in 10 postgraduates.
The Bank of England has warned that the UK will enter a recession this year, with inflation already at 10.1 percent.
Students fear they won’t be able to pay the energy bill
Universities UK, a body representing 140 campus bosses across Britain, said the UK’s £9,250 annual tuition freeze means they are “already operating with a severely stretched funding base”, reducing the amount of help they can provide to students. , is limited.
Foreign students, who account for a fifth of places at the leading Russell Group universities this year, pay much higher fees – often in excess of £20,000.
In the July poll of 1,050 students currently in higher education, three-quarters agreed that the cost of living negatively impacts their mental health.
Utilities and utility bills were listed as their top concerns, with 64 percent worrying about those costs, followed by rent or housing and food, while half said they would spend less time with friends and family this fall.
The cost of living for students will increase further after energy contracts are changed days before the start of the new semester.
Thousands of students will struggle to cover rising energy costs after some of their accommodation providers forego fixed-price deals.
UniHomes, a management company that offers fixed-price contracts that include student housing bills, has now sent students an email informing them that their energy bills will rise in October following the rise in energy prices, despite their bills being advertised as fixed. for the duration of their contracts.
Joe Brindle, 20, is about to start his second year of college in Sheffield and has been told his contract for fixed-price utility bills with UniHomes will increase next month.
“We’re pretty sure they’re legally covered by their terms and conditions, but these contracts were horribly mismarketed. They’re taking advantage of students who just wanted some security,” he said.
Phil Greaves, of UniHomes, said: “Students are being hit hardest by the cost of living crisis and we are sorry we have increased the stress some are facing. Rising energy costs are affecting everyone and as a last resort we have unfortunately have to pass on part of the costs to our customers.
“We are not taking advantage of this at all and have absorbed some of the previous price increases for customers.”