Written by Rosie Neill

Product Marketing Manager

Against the backdrop of the third UK Covid-19 lockdown in January 2021, a survey of 1,000 students demonstrated the intractable link between money worries and mental health and how financial concerns impact students’ wellbeing day to day.

We found that, at the beginning of last year, students felt they needed an extra £329 a month to be confident they would be able to complete their degree. In fact, worrying about making ends meet was so widespread that it was causing 48% of students surveyed to consider dropping out or deferring a year due to money constraints and 75% reported that worrying about finances was impacting their mental health. 

Whilst this undeniably paints a bleak picture, it is also important to note that the survey was completed during an acute point of crisis and disruption for students. To track how student financial wellbeing is evolving and find out whether any of the key themes that emerged in 2021 are year-on-year trends, we decided to conduct the research annually – enter the Blackbullion Student Money & Wellbeing report. 

So last month, one year on from our 2021 report, we commissioned a new survey, run by Censuswide, of just over 1,000 university students across the UK to find out:

  • How students’ financial wellbeing has changed over the past 12 months and whether they can afford to study in 2022
  • How money worries are impacting students, their mental health, physical health and university experience
  • Students’ current attitudes and behaviours towards money and where they’re learning about money from
  • How students feel when looking ahead to their financial future
  • How students’ financial experiences vary across genders

While some of the key themes from 2021 have reemerged, we also see three clear shifts in student financial wellbeing over the last year.

1. The cost of living crisis is having a very real impact on students’ budgets and wellbeing

There’s a new force at play in 2022: the rising cost of living. With inflation climbing at its fastest rate in 30 years (from 0.7% in January 2021 to 5.5% in January 2022), we’re seeing this have a very real impact on students’ daily budgets and on the entire financial experience. So much so that 72% of students surveyed feel very or somewhat worried about it.

We see the increasing cost of living reflected in students’ budgets in terms of the financial gap between what students say they have and need to feel confident they will be able to complete their degree. This year, students reported needing £395 more than they have – a 20% increase compared to the gap of £329 from 2021’s findings. 

Download the whitepaper to read about the impact this is having on students’ mental health, physical health and university experience. 

It’s hard. Everything is more expensive now.

Student feedback

2. The money gap between female and male students is widening

While we also saw a monthly budget gap between female and male students* in 2021, with male students having £60 more to spend each month than females, the new 2022 findings show that this gap had widened dramatically.  

This year, male students report an average monthly budget of £714, while their female peers are living on £578 a month – 23% less. 

Since 2021, male students’ monthly budgets have grown by 15%, while female students have seen an increase of just 3% year on year. Worryingly, this means the monthly budget gap between the two genders has more than doubled in just a year, with female students having £136 less to spend.

We dig into why this might be in the report, looking at the differences in the ways female and male students are supplementing their Student Finance funding, as well as where they are learning about money from. Interesting findings also emerged regarding variances in attitude and confidence towards money across the two genders. Download your copy to learn more.

3. Students are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their financial future

1 in 5 students feel pessimistic and lack confidence about their financial future. While the rising cost of living is overwhelmingly students’ most acute concern, they have a wide range of other worries too, including:

  • Not being able to get on the property ladder
  • Being in debt
  • Earning potential
  • Employment prospects
  • Paying back student loans and tuition fee debt

And it doesn’t end there; today’s students are also contending with troubling macro global forces that could have potential negative impact on their financial future, from Covid through to Brexit and climate change. Students have a lot on their mind – download the report to see which of these they are most preoccupied with and what they have to say in regards to the future.

The pandemic has set back employment opportunities and it’s likely that young people will have to pay for the pandemic.

Student feedback

How can HE providers support students right now?

This year’s findings show that once again, students are facing an uncertain future with significant challenges. There’s a lot going on and young people of today are contending with increased taxes, inflation rates not seen in decades, the long-tail impact of a once-in-a-generation pandemic and an ever-evolving world of work with greater automation and less patience, as well as fast-moving geopolitical challenges. 

That said, HE providers have a unique opportunity to underpin the whole student experience with financial wellbeing, which will help students develop lifelong skills and set the foundations for a positive financial future, despite these trying conditions. Focusing on the impact of money worries on students, alongside their mental health and academic aspirations, has never been more urgent.

Get your copy of the whitepaper report to dig deeper into this, read the full 2022 findings and discover practical steps for universities and colleges. 

Don’t forget to sign up to our staff newsletter too – you’ll be the first to hear about all of our latest research and resources.

*When referring to males and females, these are people who have chosen to identify as either male or female at the beginning of the survey.

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