The pandemic has heightened the precariousness of students’ finances and brought financial unease into sharper focus. Arguably, financial wellbeing support from universities and colleges has never been more important, with 67% of students reporting that worrying about finances negatively impacts their mental health.*
And with another uncertain academic year ahead, an increase in students turning to support staff for help and advice as they try to navigate towards a more empowered financial future is to be expected. But what’s most important to students when it comes to financial wellbeing support? What do they feel their institution is currently doing well, and what would they like to see improved?
Here are five key insights from the second mini-report in our latest insights & trends series for university and college staff: What financial wellbeing support do students need?
1. Availability of support funds
41% of students said that, in terms of supporting their financial wellbeing, the one thing they’ve appreciated most from their university over the last year is the availability of financial support funds.
Given the gap of £329 between how much students have to spend each month to cover all expenses (including rent) and how much they believe they need to feel confident they can complete their degree, it’s clear to see why financial support funds scored high for appreciation from students.
For many, this extra financial support from their university or college is essential to plug the gap. More important still when we consider the fact that 48% of students have or are considering dropping out or deferring due to money constraints.
A variety of helpful funds and initiatives were named as helpful by students, from hardship funds to free on-campus parking spots. A full list is published in the report.
2. The support application process
When it comes to applying for a support fund through their university or college, there are two things that are most important to students. 67% of students want to be able to:
- Submit the application quickly
- See the status of the application
Students also value the ability to do everything online (64%) and receive an immediate payment (47%) – a reflection of how today’s digitally expectant student cohort are happy to allow technology to do the heavy lifting in all instances and areas of their life.
It’s a theme we’ve already seen emerge in part 1 of our latest insights & trends series and is true for all aspects of the university experience, from learning through to campus admin, as well as when managing money to fund student life. Ensuring a seamless financial support offering is very much a part of this.
3. Preventative support
22% of students have really appreciated the preventative financial wellbeing support their university’s support teams proactively provided over the last year. Examples of this included:
- Reaching out to students via email
- Sharing budgeting guidance and templates
- Being responsive to student queries and questions
- Providing up-to-date information on the availability and eligibility of financial support
- Signposting to Blackbullion
Preventative financial wellbeing support is so important, especially when it comes to newer, digital activities that carry financial risk. Examples of these include OnlyFans, cryptocurrency trading and Buy Now Pay Later. It’s only going to become more and more important this year for support staff to keep up to date with news and developments about these activities to feel able to have vital conversations with students, ensuring they are aware of all risks before getting involved.
A full list of the financial topics students feel they know least about is available in the report.
4. Part-time work on campus
Students commended how their university provided jobs on campus and their support teams’ role in sharing information about these opportunities.
Being able to find employment is important to students; when asked what they would consider doing if they needed some extra cash, 67% of students said they would apply for a job (or an additional job).
Other considerations included asking parent(s)/guardian(s) for money and selling clothes or other items. See the full list in this report.
5. Personalised support for specific groups
While students expressed much praise and gratitude for universities’ financial wellbeing and support offerings, 60% felt there is room for improvement. When asked what one thing they’d like to see improved, the differences between the needs of specific groups of students was highlighted.
For instance, it was felt that challenges unique to international students were not always addressed, particularly regarding the travel costs associated with Covid requirements. This is an important consideration for universities and colleges, especially given that international students are worth £28.8 billion to the UK.
As is often the case, the difficulty for support teams remains needing to do even more with less. This is where introducing technology can help – to free up time for staff, add much-needed capacity and provide a centralised location to advertise all available university funds, as well as external scholarships/bursaries etc.
The third and final part of our Student Financial Wellbeing insights & trends series is coming soon! We’ll share students’ financial habits – whether they feel they’ve made a money mistake or developed a new positive financial habit recently.
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