Hard times for students

[Stills taken from the Zoom meeting between Bath’s MP and student representatives from Bath Spa University]

Seems Bath’s many students are having to start watching their pennies too as the cost of living crisis bites. Nationally – a National Union of Students survey shows eleven percent of those in higher education are using food banks!

All of this was under discussion when Bath MP Wera Hobhouse held a Zoom meet with elected representatives from the Bath Spa University Students’ Union who described the financial stresses their peers are experiencing.

Mrs Hobhouse has raised the matter in Parliament in hopes that the Government will act so that students do not face severe financial difficulties.

Research conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) paints a worrying picture as one in three students are living on just £50 a month after paying bills. The survey of 3,500 has revealed that dropout rates are 23% higher than last year.

The stats from the NUS survey displays the plight of those in higher education. 96% of students are cutting back on their spending, 11% are using food banks and 90% say that the ongoing crisis is affecting their mental health. When one considers that students are facing a real terms cut in their maintenance grant of 7.5%, it is obvious why those in higher education are feeling the pressure of the crisis so acutely. Mercy in Action, a local charity in Bath, has seen a fivefold increase in the number of young people and students needing to use the food pantry.

In Parliament, Wera Hobhouse MP highlighted how students are a vital part of all aspects of life in Bath including its economy. Lower expenditure by students will worry many local businesses. Nationally, students are responsible for over £80 billion of economic output.

The universities in Bath are now providing hardship funds to try and compensate for the gap in support for students due to the lack of Government action. Many are demanding that the Government consider tying the student support with inflation and deliver urgent maintenance grants and bursaries to those who need them.

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse commented:

“The results of the NUS survey are extremely distressing. The students at our two great universities here in Bath contribute immensely to the life and culture of the city. It is deeply troubling to hear how the cost of living crisis is impacting many of them.

“Students contribute massively to the local economy and they need sufficient Government support to help ensure that this continues.

“Our great universities Bath are trying to plug the gaps in Government funding with hardship funds and this should be rightly applauded. However, it should not be down to them. It is the Government’s responsibility to look after young people and students and they are failing in this. We must look urgently at implementing support packages for the youth of today so they can get through university and give themselves the chance at a better future.”

Elected Officers of the Bath Spa Students’ Union commented:

“Whilst the results of the NUS survey are shocking they are not at all surprising. We see the impact of this crisis on students’ lives and on their mental health on a daily basis. Some of our students have to choose between heating and eating, are unable to afford travel to lectures and are forced to work excessive hours in part-time employment to make ends meet. On top of this Bath is one of the most expensive UK cities to live in.

“The national threshold for students receiving the highest maintenance loan has remained static since 2007 and the number of students now entitled to receive the maximum maintenance loan has halved. It is vital that the Government raises the thresholds for student loan brackets to ensure students are adequately supported throughout this crisis. Support packages offered by the Government must also be made available to students. 

“We have been working hard to reduce the impact of the cost of living crisis on our student body locally and nationally, including reducing on campus prices and providing more free services and we are pleased to have our MP’s support on this issue. It is imperative that the Government acts now to ensure students, who are our leaders of tomorrow, are not forced into further hardship.”