The real cost for students in the cost of living crisis

27 April 2023

‘Cozzie livs’ – a classically sardonic Gen Z moniker – is not going away, and the name is the only amusing thing about this crisis which is posing a genuine threat to Gen Z’s mental health, wellbeing, and higher education.

APPG’s Students Re

port Cost of Living Inquiry

Multiple studies have been released in the last six months, as concerns for student wellbeing mounts. The APPG’s Students Report Cost of Living Inquiry collates studies done by the ONS, the NUS, Save the Student, and the Sutton Trust (to name a few), illustrating the common themes with their own survey results, submissions from student unions and two oral evidence sessions.

“We believe this is unfair on a generation of students already affected by the pandemic, and risks wideninginequality”

Current financial support is not adequate for the modern problem: student loans have suffered a real loss in value, and students from the poorest backgrounds are losing more than £1500 in loan entitlement per year. Data from the ONS found 6 in 10 students receiving a student loan said it did not cover their cost. Many universities are trying to help, but hardship provisioning was only designed for a small number of students facing emergencies, not a large proportion of the student body. The loss of maintenance grants leaves students from the poorest backgrounds with the highest debt; there is a strong case to be made for means-tested maintenance grants.

‘Grab and go’ approach to education: due to the necessity of doing more paid work, students are missing out on the full student experience such as extra-curricular opportunities. Networking and involvement in the full scope of university opportunities is hugely important for personal and career development. Data from the Sutton Trust indicated about half of undergraduate students have missed class this academic year to do paid work.

This is not a student issue; this is a national issue:  we hear it in the news every day, organisations are struggling to hire skilled workers, especially in tech. When two in five students have considered dropping out of university because of either rent or bills pressure, it seems obvious that the skills drain is only going to increase. We need to encourage people to pursue training or education, which inevitably requires an investment not just from the individual.

So, how are you thinking creatively about how you can help students?

As employers, consider your expectations of students attending open days or applying for roles through the lens of significant financial pressure. Does your event have a hybrid option to save time and travel costs? Is there a way to make the application process more streamlined? For example, can they upload a CV without repeating the information in digital forms? As one of our student focus group participants made clear, time is money. Six hours spent on a job application – one of many applications – is six hours not earning money.

It’s also important to note that not all students are affected equally. As mentioned earlier, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more affected by the crisis, racking up more debt and lacking a financial safety net offered by some families. In our research, we also found geography had a role to play. In our Birmingham focus groups, students were far more concerned about the cost of living crisis than their London counterparts. Employers should do as much research as possible into their target student audiences, and recognise the intersectional implications for different students.


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