Two-thirds of students now work either in term-time or holidays to get through college, while half have taken out a student loan. But while younger students have more cash at their disposal, mature students and lone parents are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
The Policy Studies Institute interviewed nearly 2,000 students and found that average income rose from pounds 3,031 in 1988/9 (equivalent to pounds 4,143 at today's prices) to pounds 4,559 in 1995/6.
Much of the increase in student income was from earnings or money borrowed against future earnings, including student loans. Those two sources amount to 40 per cent of student income, three times the proportion of seven years ago.
Grants, loans and parental contributions now cover the basics while what students can earn, save and receive in gifts cover any extras. The biggest expense was accommodation, which averaged pounds 1,180.
Although a tenth of students' spending was on alcohol and tobacco (pounds 511) that was no more than other under-30s living independently on low incomes.
More students worked in 1995/6 than in 1992/3 and those who did also earned more in real terms. Two-thirds of students now work, with average earnings up from pounds 238 to pounds 625. Half worked 10 hours a week during term- time.
A quarter of students owed nothing at the end of the 1995/6 academic year although on average they were pounds 839 in the red.
Douglas Trainer, president of the National Union of Students, said that the findings did not mean students were in a better situation. "Students are forced to take out significant amounts of money through loans which we have never thought is a practical way to survive," he said. "The Student Loans Company is costing the country millions of pounds."
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