One in five students are turning to gambling as a way to make money at university, while one in four would consider selling their body to medical trials or the adult entertainment industry.
Leading student money website Save the Student carried out a nationwide survey on over 2,300 undergrads to assess the impact that financial worries are having on the student population. Findings released this week show that nearly 80% of current students are concerned about having enough money to live on, claiming that their academic studies and diet suffers due to a lack of funds.
Along with high tuition fees and rising living costs, rental prices have increased considerably in recent years, forcing the average student to halve their spending on ‘luxuries’ such as socialising and clothes. While many seek a part-time job to try and alleviate money troubles this restricts the amount of time they can spend on degree commitments, adding to already building stress and anxiety levels. As a result, students begin to consider alternative means of raising funds, leading them into addictive habits and potentially dangerous situations.
Thomas, 23, an economics student at Nottingham, began playing poker when he turned 18. Sharing his experience he explained: “I came to see poker as a part-time job at university. My friends gambled a bit here and there, but mainly for a laugh- their livelihoods were not dependent on it. For me, a session online would last anywhere between 18 and 36 hours and I would do at least five a month. I spent a lot of my winnings on drinks and bought myself a BMW for my 21. The main thing though is that I can now afford to take a Maths PGCE without having to apply for yet another loan.
“I was called anti-social once or twice but I never saw it as a risk. Swings of losses and wins happen but it’s about the bigger picture- as long as the overall trend is up it’s okay. I once lost close to £4,000 in 14 hours but in my best session I won close to £11,000 in 22. I am looking forward to entering the working world but this is a job that fitted into my student lifestyle at a time when I needed funds.”
Ed Pinkney, founder of student mental health charity Mental Wealth UK, said: “As a recent survey from National Union of Students shows, many students are feeling desperate. There is a strong link between financial difficulties and mental health issues and the government ought to be closely monitoring the effect on young people of increased tuition fees and a tough jobs market."
As for medical trials, offering yourself as a human guinea pig for drugs that have yet to be used on humans is a risky business. Sure the horror stories are, in reality, rare, but side effects such as headaches, lethargy and nausea are common and many may not be experienced until years later.
Christian, 21, a student at Nottingham Trent, registered for a medical trial in a bid to relieve money worries. “It involved two visits to a hospital in Nottingham where I was fed through a tube down my nose and underwent a scan. The doctors were investigating the best practice for feeding ill patients. I was really hard up at the time- it was third year and the cost of travelling for my dissertation had taken its toll. This offered me a chance to make £160 in 10 hours. I was friends with a medic who suggested it so I felt safer and couldn't see any immediate danger to my health. It was an uncomfortable experience but at the time it was either that or going further into my overdraft.”
So what can be done to discourage students from risking their mental and physical well-being in the pursuit of funds? Jake Butler, editor of Save the Student, commented: “It’s clear that now, more than ever before, students require much more in the way of support, awareness and wider education when it comes to personal finance. It really does concern me when we see how much worry and stress money issues are causing, when after all students should be focusing 100% on their studies.”