A recent National Union of Stu- dents (NUS) study has revealed that the difference between student expenditure and government funding has increased to £8,037 per student for the new academic year.
The student finance shortfall has increased by 10 percent since 2010/2011, when it was £7,310. Costs of living have soared in the past year, making it impossible for students to afford basics such as rent, utility bills and food, without taking on paid work alongside their study.
As a result of this new informa- tion, NUS President Liam Burns, and Vice-President Pete Mercer, have launched a Student Financial Support Commission.
The commission aims to analyse the costs faced by students in comparison with the financial support they receive, and find out if help is being offered to the students facing the most financial difficulty.
The commission, convened by Burns and Mercer, will include eight current student officers and five student finance experts, who will be calling for evidence to prove that the current student loans are of a dissatisfactory amount. The student officers are NUS representatives from Universities all over the country, including Loughborough, Oxford, Norwich, Sheffield and Cornwall. The names of the financial experts are yet to be announced.
Outside London, the average cost of living for the 2011/12 academic year is £16,279. The average Government funding for these students, including repayable loans and “free” grants, is £8,242, covering just over half of living costs.
In London, the deficit has also increased. A £7,548 difference between incomings and outgoings indicates an 11 per cent rise in shortfall. The average student living in London spends £17,428 per year, and could potentially receive up to £9,880 in loans and grants.
The Student Financial Support Commission will convene for the first time on 17 October 2011.
Speaking of the financial shortfall students are currently facing, Burns says: “Not enough of the student support in the higher education system is getting in to the pockets of students and there is a real danger that the situation is getting worse.
There has been a shocking leap in the gap between Government funding and the cost of being a student. “The kinds of wages available to young people at the moment mean that many students without family support would have to work virtually full-time jobs or take on huge commercial debt whilst they study.”
Burns remains positive about the Student Financial Support Commission, however, and says: “It is important that we get a full picture of where the failings are.
“When this commission reports we will have some clear recommendations for the Government that they must listen to if we are to avoid rising numbers of students being unable to afford to study.”