Written by Sean Maguinness

Marketing Executive

For many students, going to university will be their first experience of financial independence. 

It means deciding where money is best spent: where to rent, the best supermarket for cheap groceries, and that’s before even thinking about social activities! 

Now, the cost of living crisis is affecting all areas of student life. For some students, rising costs mean less to spend on social activities, while others are facing severe pressure on basic living and energy costs. 

For the students most affected, money struggles can detract from their studies, causing them to miss lectures in order to work or, in severe cases, forcing them to leave university entirely

Universities up and down the country have come up with their own unique initiatives and ways to help students study during the cost of living crisis. Here’s a summary of actions that some of our partner universities and colleges have taken.

1. Introducing financial education as part of degree courses (Nottingham Trent University)

Financial literacy is one of the best skills to teach young people to help them face the current economic climate. Still, it can be difficult to get students to invest in financial learning as an extracurricular activity.

Nottingham Trent University has taken a different approach. Instead of having financial education as an extracurricular activity, they have embedded financial learning into the timetable by blending it with their existing degree courses.

How it works

Students studying certain subjects will have the opportunity to take supplementary modules to improve their financial literacy. For example, when the initiative was first being trialled, Health and Social Care students were given the option as financial management was a useful skill for students who need to manage their budgets on placement. 

This idea was actually sparked by listening to students’ feedback! When Nottingham Trent University held a student survey, 80% of students said they wanted guidance on managing finances as part of their studies.

We wanted a way to help more students manage their money. Our hope was that this would reduce the number of students experiencing financial hardship because we know that at this point, financial difficulties can have a real negative impact on the student, their wellbeing and their ability to remain on course.

Helen Rylands Student Services Manager
Nottingham Trent University

2. Providing jobs on campus (University of Essex)

Financial literacy is a great foundation for students to build a better financial future. But there’s no doubt that students need extra support with the more immediate financial issues posed by the economy.  

The value of government support for student living costs is falling short of inflation. Meaning that even students on the maximum maintenance loan would make more money if they worked in a minimum wage job. 

More students are making the same choice: prioritise part-time work – even if it means they miss time from their studies. 

This has led many students to miss lectures and teaching time, working instead during these hours to cover their extra costs. 

To solve this issue, the University of Essex has created jobs on campus, so students can earn money without having to choose between work and study.

In total, the University of Essex has invested £100,000 to fund at least 7,500 jobs – both administrative and creative – to boost their students’ income as well as their CVs! 

Creating job opportunities is not only a great way to help students tide themselves over right now, but massively boosts their future prospects – while still allowing time for their studies.

3. Slashing the cost of a gym membership (Liverpool John Moores University)

With costs rising everywhere, keeping on top of physical health can be an afterthought for students as prices of gyms in the private sector soar. A recent study found that half of 25-34-year-olds have cancelled fitness memberships, which rises to 56% in Gen Z.

Liverpool John Moores University responded by cutting their gym membership from £125 a year to £25 a year. This is a huge discount for students who want to get in control of their physical health for a fraction of a regular gym membership, paying the equivalent of what is usually a monthly payment for a whole year of access. 

There are a multitude of benefits that this will provide to students. Exercise doesn’t just improve students’ physical health but also their mental health – helping relieve stress that could be coming with the big changes taking place in the economy.

4. Creating food support schemes (Keele University and University of York)

Finding an affordable supermarket can be a challenge for students at the best of times. But with the ONS finding that food and drink prices are rising at their fastest rate since 1977, it means the weekly grocery shop now takes a more sizeable chunk out of students’ budgets.  

In response, Keele University introduced a food voucher scheme. The scheme provides students with a £50 gift card for a low-cost supermarket based close to the university. Keele University added the scheme as a fund to our Funds Management System (FMS) to make the process easier and less manual for staff, but also to meet rising demand from students. 

Sometimes, even small measures of support can go a really long way:

  • When the University of York saw a sharp rise in grocery prices, they introduced a ‘40p beans on toast’ scheme to ensure their students didn’t miss out on the most important meal of the day.
  • Leeds Trinity University has also offered £2 hot meals subsidised by the university in their canteen. Reducing prices in student union canteens can be a great way to support students as all prices in the private hospitality sector are on the rise.

5. Offering discounts across student services (Leeds Trinity University)

Leeds Trinity University launched a ‘Helping you with the cost’ initiative to help students cope with the rising cost of living. It includes a range of cost reductions and support across campus. 

These measures do two things to help students:

Cut costs of student services on campus:

The first part of the initiative cuts costs on the student services that students use the most. This includes a free laundry service on campus and the removal of fines on late library returns.

Offer support with more expensive areas of university life:

Extra support has been provided to make sure the more expensive parts of university life are made more accessible: 

  • Helping with the cost of graduation gowns
  • Increased payment allowance to help cover travel costs
  • Increased access to digital loan devices 

Leeds Trinity’s approach reduces campus costs while providing support for the more expensive areas of university life, so that the university experience can be cheaper and more accessible to its students.

6. Using the Blackbullion platform (50+ universities and colleges)

The Blackbullion platform is now listed as a resource on the government’s cost of living student finance support page, as the financial education on our platform is helping students navigate this challenging period.

Meanwhile, our Funds Management System (FMS) is enabling students to discover any and all additional funding they may be eligible for – more important now than ever. 

For the staff at our partner universities and colleges, the FMS is making the management and administration of funds much easier and less manual. Last year, staff saved the equivalent of 1,119 days (or 3 years!) thanks to an incredible 300,000 automated emails sent to students on their behalf. 

The Department of Education (DfE) announced it will provide an extra £15 million in hardship funding between January and the end of March 2023 in light of the cost of living crisis. For universities, this means more funds to process to meet increased demand from students. Get in touch to see how the FMS can help.

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