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Students struggling to juggle university living costs

New budget calculator highlights contrast in cost of living across the country, catching students by surprise

Students struggling to juggle university living costs

Where students choose to study in the country might set them back over £5,000 in living costs, according to new findings from Which? University.

Unsurprisingly, London was pegged as the most expensive area of the country for students to live in. The figure stands at £14,200, based on student expenditure and the average cost of rent.

The South East and East of England followed, both totting up an annual bill of £11,000 in day-to-day costs.

At the other end, students on a tight budget may want to book a few university open days in Northern Ireland, which came out as the cheapest region. Annual living costs averaged £8,800, over £5,000 less than London.

Work out your uni living costs

The significant difference has been highlighted as Which? University launches a brand new student budget calculator, which tells students how much they roughly need to live on at their chosen university.

Students and their families can download a tailored breakdown, based on what previous cohorts of students said they spent across 14 categories – including rent, food, utility bills and going out – to help them understand the cost of living at university and plan ahead.

‘The disparity in student living costs across the UK means students are not always able to prepare for the cost of living at university’, said Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets.

‘With results day approaching, students can better understand the cost of living at their chosen university with Which? University’s student budget calculator.’

The student struggle to make ends meet

A recent Which? survey found that 46% of students had asked parents or family for extra money to manage their living costs, with 40% saying these were higher than expected.

26% admitted to using overdrafts to make ends meet when it came to living costs, while 10% relied on credit cards to do so.

The survey also highlighted the subsequent impact of this financial anxiety on students and their university experience. Nearly a third (31%) said that money issues had negatively impacted their mental health and stress, with one in ten considering dropping out from university altogether because of this.

When asked how well their university was able to support them when money woes arose, students shared mixed experiences.

One first year student said: ‘My university was enormously supportive when I was struggling before Christmas. I was offered extensions on deadlines, one-to-one support from my tutor, and they were even able to offer a £500 hardship payment.’

But other students weren’t so fortunate, with less support available: ‘I [told the university about my issues] and was told to quit university or take a loan from the bank.’

Learn more about a course or university, search now on Which? University.

Students leaving money on the table

While students can apply for a maintenance loan to go towards their living costs as part of the student finance package, how much they receive varies depending on their family’s household income. Many don’t get the full amount, leaving a ‘shortfall’ that parents are required to make up but isn’t explicitly communicated to them, according to Martin Lewis.

Students can seek out extra funding opportunities such as bursaries or scholarships that don’t need to be repaid. Yet according to this research, six in ten students didn’t apply for any of these, with nearly three quarters of students citing that they didn’t think they’d be eligible.

The study – conducted by Youthsight on behalf of Which? with 5,000 undergraduate students at UK universities between March and April of this year – also revealed a lack of knowledge about student loan repayments despite students’ claims that they understood these well.

Read more the current reality of student finance, according to students.

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