Last week, we came across some alarming social media threads from our student community. Students were panicking about their finances. They couldn’t find the answers they needed. And, with campuses closing down they were unsure where to go for support. As we work closely with our partners to navigate the impact of coronavirus on higher education, we wanted to dig deeper into how students are feeling.
We surveyed over 1,100 students across 24 UK universities. The results showed that while students recognise universities are working hard to address their challenges the coronavirus is having a devastating impact on students and raising strong feelings of financial anxiety. Ultimately the feeling that they simply haven’t been offered the “safety net” that others have.
Cash grants top the student wish list
We started off by asking where students needed more support to weather the crisis. Financial worries led here; for nearly two-thirds (67%) cash grants would be the most helpful support. Just under half (47%) said cancelling exams and an early release from accommodation contracts (45%) would alleviate the fall-out in coming months. 37% felt targeted information for students would help and just under a third (28%) see a need to boost mental health support.
Exam pressure compounds student wellbeing
Exam pressures are currently the highest concern for students, with 72% of our respondents identifying this as their most significant worry right now. We should add here that we’re expecting this figure to shift in coming weeks, as the financial pressures become the forefront of everyone’s worries.
Pressures of paying bills (60%) and the ongoing uncertainty (58%) caused by the outbreak are adding to young people’s daily anxieties.
Understandably, over half (55%) of our respondents expressed extreme concern around their personal mental health – and only a third (32%) said they currently feel “ok”. There’s not an area of student lives the coronavirus hasn’t touched: 45% are worried about loneliness and the impact it will have on their families’ health while 17% said they had concerns about how coronavirus could affect their physical health.
Plugging finance gaps in coming weeks
We wanted to look ahead and understand how students plan to support themselves in the coming weeks. Already, our research unveiled that 45% of the students responding to our survey have lost their jobs – unsurprising given how many student jobs fall into retail, restaurants and hospitality, some of the worst affected sectors.
This means that for 59%, students loans will be their main source of income and follows the Student Loan Company’s announcements that full payments can be expected in the summer term.
Over a third of students (39%) will be leaning on parental support followed closely by other borrowing (37%). Just 20% expect to support themselves with a part-time job. But there were drastic measures too, with some students resorting to ‘selling any items of value, such as my printer and TV’, while others are ‘considering dropping out of university to be eligible for benefits’. One student cited ‘selling my body through online shows’ in a bid to bridge the financial gap.
Support is out there now
Understanding that you’re not alone in this new normal is key: 17% of students have so far applied for emergency funding with 16% contacting the Student Loan Company. 48% of our respondents have been in touch with the student services team on their campus; yes, these are operating remotely but are fully active and 1-2-1 support is being delivered by video conferencing, chat tools and emails. Support is out there. Get in touch with your student support services team to understand what help is available to you.
For full survey results, click here.