Government announce a 2.8% increase in financial support for students. This is not enough - the risk to students’ mental health is clear.
Yesterday, the government announced details of the financial support available to higher education students in the 2023/24 academic year. Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, high rates of inflation, and increased reports of students experiencing financial hardship, the maximum student maintenance loan will increase by just 2.8%. The same increase will also apply to maximum Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), grants for student parents and carers, and some postgraduate loans. These changes are on top of the real-term cuts made in 2022/23, which have not been addressed in this announcement, and which saw financial support for students reach a seven-year low.
This is simply not enough. The risks to students’ mental health are clear.
The current economic situation is already resulting in students making difficult decisions to support themselves financially, including skipping meals, missing lectures, taking out new debt, and/or engaging in precarious or risky behaviours to earn money. Our latest research, conducted in November 2022, shows that 83 percent of students were concerned about the current cost of living crisis, and 60 percent said their wellbeing was negatively impacted by their financial situation.
As reported by the Russell Group, this 2.8% increase means that undergraduate students will lose out on £1500 due to the inaccurate inflation forecasts used to calculate maintenance loans over the past two years. As these errors have not been addressed by the government in this announcement, cuts to support have become ‘baked in’, meaning that future students will also face the impacts of these cuts.
The government has also announced an additional £15 million in funding for universities to provide hardship support to students struggling with their finances. However, that £15m, or around £5 per current student, is not enough to provide the support needed by students up and down the country.
The relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health is well-evidenced. The government must revise this decision and act now to provide adequate support for university students, by ensuring maintenance loans are increased in-line with actual inflation rates since 2020/21. Without this support, students will continue to face financial hardship, with their mental health, physical health and academic success all at a heightened risk.
We also support calls from other organisations in our sector for a review of the current maintenance loans system, to protect students in the future. This includes ensuring future loan amounts are in-line with actual, rather than forecasted, inflation; revising the parental earnings threshold; and considering the re-introduction of maintenance grants.
Are you struggling with the cost of living crisis? Head over to our Cost of Living Hub to find support, resources to help create change and more information about the current climate students are facing.