Half of all students in England are in financial difficulty, with a quarter taking on additional debt and three in 10 skipping lectures and tuition in order to cut costs, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics.
More than nine in 10 students (91%) who took part in the survey said they were concerned about the cost of living, and 45% said their mental health had deteriorated as a result during the fall term.
Amid warnings that students risk becoming forgotten victims of the cost-of-living crisis, one in five of those surveyed said they had considered pausing their studies until next year.
Nearly two-thirds (62%) have reduced food purchases, nearly two in five (38%) have reduced their use of gas and electricity to keep costs down, and more than half (52%) have had to rely on savings to get by.
More than three-quarters (77%) said they were worried the crisis would affect how well they did in their degree. Four in 10 (40%) said they were studying more at home to save costs than going to campus, and one in five (21%) were attending lectures remotely where possible.
Tim Gibbs, from the Office for National Statistics, said: “In common with most adults we surveyed, these findings show that most students in higher education experience the impact of increases in the cost of living. However, for some, this may also affect their their educational experience, while cutting back on some non-compulsory aspects of the course to save money and consider other options, such as suspending their studies.”
The survey, which attracted 4,201 responses from mainly undergraduate students at a range of universities in England, found that 29% chose not to attend non-compulsory lectures and classes to save costs, while 31% avoided field trips and conferences to cut costs. .
Almost one in five students (18%) said they have considered moving back to their family home and moving to their university from there, and 6% plan to do so. Although 19% of students said they had considered putting their studies on hold and resuming next year, only 1% were actively planning to do so.
Similarly, 19% considered switching from classroom-based to distance learning, but only 2% were planning to do so. The cost of living crisis is also shaping future plans, with more than a third (34%) now less likely to study further after completing their studies.
Of every four students who reported taking on new debt in response to the rising cost of living—either by borrowing more or using extra credit—two-thirds (66%) said their student loan was not enough to live on.
When asked if they were able to ask a family member for money, almost half (48%) said they couldn’t. Many universities have offered financial aid to students hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis, but only 16% of those surveyed applied for grants, 7% applied for funds from their university’s hard funds, and 5% for other financial support.
Professor Steve West, Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said: “Students risk becoming the forgotten group in the cost-of-living crisis. We need the government to work with us and provide targeted hardship funding to protect them now, before their costs of living become too high. They are unable to continue studying.
“If this happens, it is a tragic loss of talent for the country and a personal loss that crushes hope, opportunity, potential and social mobility. We cannot let that happen.”
A separate report from Endsleigh Student Assistance, a service that provides 24/7 support to students, said calls from students seeking financial support had increased by 39%, while calls related to student housing had increased by 46%. There has been a 70% increase in calls from students seeking support for depression, Endsley said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said the government was providing £261m of hardship support in 2022-23 to students who need it most, adding: “Many universities are doing a fantastic job of supporting their students through a variety of programmes. We would urge any student who feels worried about his conditions to speak to his alma mater.”