Student loans do not cover basic costs of living, charity finds

 

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The Independent Online

Students are not being adequately supported by their maintenance loans, a new report has revealed.

The study found that even the largest maintenance loans are not covering the cost of living, leaving parents to pick up the slack. Unlike tuition loans, maintenance loans are not issued relative to the cost of living at a particular university. Instead they are issued based on family income.

The Money Charity found that those on the lowest income, who receive the highest amount of money, are still likely to need extra support - with the cheapest accommodation in some universities leaving them with just £40 a week. On average an English student on a low-income loan will be left with £350 a month. This is equal to a professional who earns £21,000 spending £1,000 a month on rent and utilities.

For an English student in London, only 58 per cent of universities offer accommodation that costs less than half of the maximum maintenance loan allowance. For a Scottish student this is even worse, with only 21 per cent of universities offering accommodation under 50 per cent of the maximum maintenance loan amount.

Those receiving the lowest amount of maintenance loan, students from the highest-income families, are even more likely to need support to cover their living costs. Over 25 per cent of universities offer no accommodation whose full cost would be covered by the minimum loan. This leaves students needing money even without food costs.

For many, more than half of their loan will be spent on accommodation forcing them to rely on their parents or a part time job to substitute their living costs.

Students may even be forced to enter their overdraft or take out other costly loans, potentially harming their credit rating.

To ease these pressures The Money Charity has asked for accommodation costs to be charged monthly rather than termly.

Chief executive Michelle Highman said: “For almost all of the 360,000 new full-time undergraduate students each year, their first instalment of maintenance loan and grant will represent the single largest sum of money they have ever been responsible for. This places a huge amount of pressure on students to use that money sensibly.

"But if most of that money is gone on accommodation costs immediately after entering their account, they are being set up to fail. We can’t expect students to become responsible savers, credit users and planers, if staying out of the red during university is impossible.”

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