Although any adult can choose to enter further education whatever their age, the majority of students are aged between 18 and 21 when they head to university.
Usually away from home for the first time, they are suddenly faced with looking after themselves and making important decisions that their parents would previously have handled. When it comes to finances, have never experienced the responsibility of money before – and can encounter difficulties as a result.
Balancing every area of life is tough – even as adults, unexpected expenses and the stress of money management can sometimes get to us. A young person taking on these burdens for the first time can (and probably will) slip up at times. As long as they know where to cut back on spending and manage enough to cover vital costs while still having some fun, university should be a smooth experience for most students. However, with university costs continuing to rise, future students may have to learn to watch their spending more closely if they are to make it through the three years without hardship.
Spending for UK students
There are plenty of costs to consider when attending university. From accommodation and food to getting around and making the most of a new town or city, there will be costs to meet at every corner. Students often report that they cut back on some areas of spending to make room for other things, and many also say that they will go long periods with no money at all after spending their loans and grants each term.
While some costs of university study are unavoidable, there are areas where some may feel students could cut back – such as entertainment. However, three years at uni could prove pretty miserable for a young student if they miss out on leisure activities, parties and hobbies. Part of the experience is meeting people and having fun, so entertainment spends are just as necessary as other costs. Students learn as they go and are ingenious at making cheap meals stretch for a whole week, or using vouchers to purchase daily items from sites such as VoucherBin.co.uk to pick up bargains. They know how to find a cheap night out, and they will usually make the effort to walk or cycle to cut their transport costs. Even so, university remains an expensive experience.
However, some students report cutting vital costs, such as food budgets. 80% of students surveyed told SaveTheStudent that they worry about money, and two thirds admitting they have gone without food in order to cover some other cost. “Bills, travel and food prices are going up,” one student told the researchers.
Most important areas of spending for students:
- Rent and bills
- Food and living expenses
- Socialising and entertainment
- Leisure and sports
- Course materials
Where is all the money going?
The average student debt after university is £35,000-£40,000, which students are expected to pay back when they start earning £21,000 or more. For a typical three year course, students are receiving around £13,000 a year. However, the cost of a university course has risen steeply and is now around £9000 per year. The majority of that student loan covers those fees, but leaves little to meet all those other costs. Many students take further loans, or work part-time around their full-time courses. Some even say they work full time just to cover the costs. 57% of students report being in work as well as studying.
Rent is another big cost for students. The average rent continues to rise each year, pricing many out of the market and leaving many students forced into unsuitable but affordable accommodation. Student rents can fall anywhere between £60-£200 per week, and city rents are usually much higher. Added to course costs, this leaves students with little to spare – however, research shows that they are making it work. 78% of students admit turning to their parents for financial assistance, often for trivial expenses such as nights out, clothing and treats. “Without my parents helping financially, it’s likely that I would have dropped out of uni by the end of first year,” a student told SaveTheStudent’s researchers. Students will continue to make cuts where they can and to watch the pennies to ensure that they can survive their years at university, but more are relying on their families to top up their income and help them through their studies.