The Student Money Survey 2021 is here!
A survey of how students are using their money has just been published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The survey, undertaken in January and February amongst 2,750 undergraduate students, looked at how students are spending their money.
One hundred students from the University of California, Berkeley, have taken the University of California Student Association’s annual Financial Health Survey. The survey, which was administered to students both during the school year and over the summer, was designed to give UC Berkeley students a real-time glimpse into their financial situation.
The National Student Money Survey 2021, which looks back on an extremely challenging academic year, shows the widespread financial worries and difficulties that students have experienced.
Gorodenkoff – Shutterstock – Gorodenkoff – Shutterstock – Gorodenkoff –
The university students who navigated university life amid the volatility and uncertainty of the coronavirus epidemic faced many difficulties throughout the 2020/21 academic year.
The National Student Money Survey, now in its ninth year, examines how students throughout the UK handle money management and shows how difficult it is for many to make ends meet.
The study reveals several significant flaws in the Student Finance system, among other things. It also demonstrates the alarming ways in which limited finances and poor financial education are affecting students’ well-being.
According to the study, up to three-quarters of students have considered leaving school, and others have cut down on meals or turned to hazardous methods to make ends meet. The findings of this poll show that the government must make adjustments immediately.
The Student Money Survey 2021’s key results
The main results from the National Student Money Survey 2021 are summarized below:
Students are having financial difficulties.
The percentage of students who struggle to make ends meet has risen to 76 percent this year, up from 71 percent in last year’s National Student Money Survey.
It’s very concerning to consider that the vast majority of university students are struggling financially. It’s even more concerning when we dissect the data to see how money concerns are affecting various aspects of students’ life.
In comparison to previous year, the percentage of students who claim money concerns have impacted their nutrition, social life, grades, relationships, mental health, and/or sleep has risen in each area.
Mental health is one of the most extensively impacted aspects of students’ life, with 65 percent stating it has been touched by financial difficulties, up from 58 percent in 2020 and 57 percent in 2019.
A larger percentage of students who are struggling to get by is likely a contributing factor. But it’s also essential to remember that financial difficulties are only one of many urgent concerns that many students have faced this academic year.
Money difficulties may have had a larger effect on the mental health of individuals who were also dealing with online learning, loneliness, and vacant housing than in prior years.
What kids have to say about scraping by
- [I] can’t even afford to pay my rent, much alone eat.
- To pay for book costs, I had to [take out] a loan, which put me in a financial bind.
- Since the start of COVID, I’ve lost my job three times and had to rely on the university’s hardship fund.
- When you’re worried about money, it’s difficult to have a pleasant student experience. You can’t focus at work, and going out with friends is a rarity due to a lack of funds.
Are Student Loans Flexible Enough?
Students face monthly living expenses of £810 on average, with a Maintenance Loan of just £470 per month, resulting in a £340 deficit each month.
Month after month, this would build up to a yearly deficit of many thousands of pounds.
It’s probably unsurprising that the vast majority of students believe the Maintenance Loan is insufficient.
The percentage of students who believe the Maintenance Loan is insufficient has risen in the past year, from 55% in the 2020 poll to 63% in the 2021 survey.
Is there adequate information regarding student finances provided to students?
As we’ve shown, the typical student has a large financial gap every month, with Maintenance Loans covering just 58 percent of their monthly living expenses.
With this in mind, it’s critical that students arrive at university with a strong grasp of personal finance, particularly budgeting.
Unfortunately, according to the poll, this is not true for all pupils.
What students have to say about making ends meet on student loans
- The [Maintenance Loan] only provides enough money to pay the rent, not enough to eat.
- It is insufficient to pay rent, food, bills, and other expenses. Worse, finding a part-time work has become difficult as a result of COVID, so I’m living on £50 per month since all of my upkeep is going into housing.
- Student financial aid does not often account for the amount of money that must be spent on rent, leaving you with little money to live on for the remainder of the academic year.
- The fact that it is dependent on parental income is, in my opinion, the most serious flaw. Many students, like me, are left to fend for themselves since their parents’ income is high. Their parents, like mine, do not financially support them.
- It wasn’t enough last year since it didn’t even pay my rent, and I would have suffered if it hadn’t been for my parents’ assistance. This year isn’t as terrible since my expenses are smaller and I have a part-time job, so I have some money left over.
Dropout rates at universities
One of the most startling findings from this study is that almost three-quarters of students had contemplated dropping out at some time during their studies.
According to the study, two out of every five students contemplated dropping out owing to financial concerns, and more than half considered abandoning their degrees due to the epidemic.
The most frequent reason, though, was mental health, which caused three out of five students to consider quitting university early.
When we consider that one of the areas of life most impacted by money concerns is mental health, it becomes apparent how closely students’ financial circumstances, mental health, and university experiences are connected.
This in itself demonstrates that the government should take any indications of inadequacy in the Student Finance system carefully.
Students are struggling to finish their degrees, both financially and emotionally. If boosting financing would help students’ mental health and decrease the danger of certain students dropping out, the advantages of implementing such adjustments to the Student Finance system would be enormous.
Those who do contemplate dropping out, as one student in the poll pointed out, have additional difficulties outside of university, such as a highly uncertain employment market:
If there were employment available, dropping out might have seemed like a smart idea.
What is the average cost of a student’s education?
Rent is by far the largest monthly expenditure for the typical student, accounting for more than half of their total monthly living expenses.
Given that the average amount a student receives from their Maintenance Loan each month is £470, most students will need to use the bulk of that money to pay rent.
Groceries are the second most expensive item. While this number is almost similar to the £100 figure from our 2020 poll, the amount students spend on food as a whole has risen this year when we include the amount they spend on takeout and/or dining out.
The impact of COVID-19 on students’ spending patterns is impossible to deny, with students spending more on takeout and less on vacations.
What sources of funding are available to students?
In comparison to the previous academic year, we’ve seen a significant change in the manner in which students have accessed money in 2020/21.
Because so many companies were forced to close temporarily or permanently as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, several students who had part-time employment before to the epidemic were forced to seek for work elsewhere to supplement their income.
In last year’s poll, slightly under three-quarters of students (74 percent) said they held a part-time work; this number has dropped significantly to 66 percent in 2021.
The average monthly wage for students with part-time jobs is £404. Despite the fact that the percentage of students having a part-time job has decreased, the amount that students in employment earn from their job has increased, rising from £326 per month in 2020 to £326 per month in 2025.
However, as more individuals seek for new methods to earn money from home, we’ve seen a significant rise in students investing in cryptocurrency…
Cryptocurrencies are becoming more popular among students.
Since last year, the percentage of students earning money from cryptocurrency has quadrupled, rising from 2% to 6%.
As the market for bitcoin and ethereum underwent a ‘boom,’ there has been a lot of media coverage this year on the increasing number of new investors becoming engaged in trading crypto.
Some have raised worries that young people are being caught up in the excitement and investing in crypto without a thorough knowledge of the dangers and viable methods involved.
With an increasing number of students stating that they are investing in cryptocurrencies, it is obvious that young people need clear, balanced information on crypto in order to make informed financial choices.
Read our guide to the stock market for additional information on investing money as a student, including the dangers to be aware of.
How many students have side hustles or tiny businesses?
In this year’s poll, 40% of students claimed they had made money through their own company or side hustle, a small decrease from the 43% who said the same previous year.
This may be another area where COVID-19 is having a financial effect on students — the recent economic instability may have caused some to cease operating their own company, while others have been discouraged from doing so.
Scholarships, bursaries, and grants
Students may apply for a variety of grants, bursaries, and scholarships.
NHS bursaries and Disabled Students’ Allowances are two examples of frequent financial sources.
There are, however, grants available for a variety of odd reasons, such as being a vegetarian, having a knack for eSports, or having the surname Graham.
These financing sources don’t need repayment, therefore they’re essentially free money. Students must know where to search and how to apply in order to get financing, but this is not always the case.
Over two-fifths of the students polled thought they didn’t have enough information about the money that could be available to them.
We’d want to see students arriving at university knowing about the bursaries, grants, and scholarships they may be qualified for, since this money has the ability to significantly improve students’ financial circumstances.
What is the average amount of money that parents give their children for university?
On average, students get £120.56 per month from their parents, and the majority of students in the study believe that this amount is sufficient.
However, more than one out of every ten students said that they would want to get more…
If their parents are also supporting their siblings, who are also at university, this may contribute to some students feeling this way. In fact, according to the study, 21% of students claimed their parents need to financially assist another student.
In general, Maintenance Loan amounts are determined by family income, with students from higher-income families receiving less than those from lower-income families.
Although the Student Finance systems in different parts of the UK differ somewhat, it is generally taken into consideration when determining loan amounts if parents have additional children attending university.
However, loans are still calculated with the assumption that higher-earning parents would pay more money to their children’s university education.
Although the decrease in family income due to having more children at university may benefit some parents, they will still be required to contribute money to each kid – and the more they earn, the larger this anticipated amount will be. Many families’ finances will undoubtedly be strained as a result of this.
Based on a student’s family income and term-time living arrangement, our parental contribution calculator calculates how much parents are required to pay toward living expenses.
How many students put money aside for college?
Just under seven out of ten students saved money before beginning university, which is comparable to last year’s figure (70 percent), indicating that new students’ saving practices are consistent.
And, as previously stated, half of the students polled indicated they utilized their savings as a source of funds while at university.
Here’s how much money students have in savings right now:
What students have to say about money management and saving
- The Maintenance Loan is beneficial, but only if you can budget well; even so, most individuals (like me) from lower-income families must work part-time to pay most expenses.
- To conserve electricity and money, I wash dishes and other items in the bath and reuse all types of water.
- I attempt to conserve money by buying less food and spending less money while I’m out with friends. When all you do is attempt [to] concentrate on studying but don’t have the stamina to do so, it may become a little lonely.
- I think that greater education on spending and the necessity of saving should be provided. Many individuals make the mistake of spending a large sum of money on a variety of items that they subsequently regret, but this may be avoided.
- I worry that I’m not saving enough, but considering how rigorous my course is, I’m not sure I’d have the time anyhow.
In a financial crunch, how would students obtain money?
As previously said, almost three-quarters of students struggle to make ends meet, so it’s critical that colleges and parents be aware of where students can turn for financial assistance in an emergency.
In an emergency, the majority of students would turn to their parents for financial assistance.
And, although almost three out of ten would request additional pay from their company, this number is much lower than the 46 percent who stated the same last year. This is in line with the finding that fewer students held part-time employment this year, showing how the part-time work market in 2020/21 will be significantly different from that in 2019/20.
In an emergency, several students also indicated that they would explore riskier methods of earning money.
When students are confronted with a financial emergency, we are worried to see them turn to credit cards, drug trials, sex work, commercial or payday loans, or gaming. Each of them poses a danger when utilized as a source of emergency funds, since they may lead to debt and have a negative effect on a student’s mental or physical health.
Student sex work is a complicated subject that is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the media, as we’ll see soon.
A list of organizations students may turn to for financial assistance and counseling is included in our guide on managing debt at university.
Universities’ sex work
Year after year, a tiny but constant percentage of students tell us that they have done or would consider doing sex work if they were in a financial situation.
It’s frightening to think that students would engage in sex work out of desperation for money, given the emotional and physical dangers involved. For individuals in this position, it’s critical that university support services inform them of alternative low-risk funding options, such as university hardship funds, scholarships, and bursaries.
However, colleges must offer adequate assistance and advice to individuals who do want to perform sex work in order to keep them safe. This may involve informing students on the legality of sex work as well as the safety precautions and safeguards that can be implemented.
In December 2020, the University of Leicester released its Student Sex Work Toolkit, which is an example of a university taking a proactive approach to this issue.
According to our polls, this compassionate and empathetic approach to assisting student sex workers was required. As a result, it was disheartening to see the toolkit criticized by certain people and media outlets who mistook the teaching of sex work for its promotion.
We hope that the bad publicity does not deter other institutions from issuing comparable advice for staff and students. This has the potential to substantially assist the 3% of students who engage in sex work, as well as the 9% who would consider it in an emergency, in remaining healthy, educated, and safe.
What kind of sex employment have students experimented with?
These are the kinds of sex work that the 3% of students in the study who have done it have attempted…
Selling personal pictures is by far the most frequent form of sex work done by students, followed by selling worn clothes and utilizing the image-sharing website OnlyFans.
What students have to say about sex work at university
- I just completed it once and earned £10. I’d want to do it more, but my partner was not enthusiastic.
- It’s not my preferred form of money, but I have full control and don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. I’ve figured out how to tell the difference between phony and real individuals on the internet, but there are still some con artists out there.
- If individuals have to sell their bodies to earn a living and sustain themselves, I believe there is obviously a wrong with the system. Instead of reprimanding it, the government should acknowledge it.
- Strange guys message me on Facebook from time to time, asking for the strangest things, and I will comply provided it does not involve me being naked. For example, I’ll offer shorts or anything like.
- Foot photos, as well as the sale of old socks, have proven to be very profitable. One pair for £40 sells out quickly.
- [I] had sex for money for two minutes [and] earned £100. I took four naked pictures and sold them for £100. It’s the easiest money I’ve ever had.
The cost of living in the United Kingdom
This covers students who live with their parents and those who live away from home.
As we’ve seen in past years, London is the most costly city in the UK to live in for students. However, the South West of England is just £30 cheaper per month.
The North West of England, on the other hand, has the lowest student living expenses, with an average of £751 per month.
Students have earned money in a variety of methods, some of which are unexpected.
Every year, we hear from kids who have come up with fresh and creative methods to earn money. Here are some of the most unusual methods to make money that we discovered throughout our research:
- “I was helping at the Euros and was instructed to pick up Robbie Keane, who tipped me £40.”
- “Testing mold sprays in exchange for a £10 Amazon voucher – there are some advantages to old mouldy bathrooms.”
- “I’d want to be an elf in a Christmas grotto.”
- “Extras are needed for television.”
- “I’m filling in for someone’s shift so they can go to the football game.”
- “I built a cardboard Tardis and sold it on Etsy.”
- “I bought 600 shoe horns from IKEA for 10p apiece and sold them on eBay.”
- “I received £120 for completing a three-month study on what I drank every day. It’s simple money!”
Do students have a clear understanding of their student loans?
We’d want to see a solid grasp of how the terms and conditions of the Maintenance Loan operate for the 65 percent of students in the poll who depend on it for money.
This isn’t always the case, though, for many kids.
Since our 2020 poll, the percentage of students who are concerned about repaying their student loans has risen somewhat, from 49 percent to 52 percent.
This is one area of student finance about which we would advise students to be unconcerned. Because of the way the repayment system is set up, graduates only have to pay back a tiny portion of their debt when they earn more than a specific amount, reducing the danger of anybody having to pay back more than they can afford.
Furthermore, regardless of how much a graduate has paid back, the Student Loan is forgiven after a set length of time (usually 30 years, depending on the repayment arrangement). In our guide on Student Loan Repayments, we go through this in more depth.
The university’s worth for money
Many students have had an undoubtedly difficult year, with the bulk of lectures and courses going online while tuition rates remained constant. As a result, hearing from so many students who believe university isn’t good value for money is upsetting, but maybe unavoidable.
The percentage of people who feel this way has increased from 46% in the 2020 poll. Both of these numbers, however, are down from the 2019 poll, when 55 percent said they felt this way.
It’s likely that some students’ institutions dealt fairly and effectively with the epidemic, keeping excellent communication and assistance throughout. As a result, students at the institutions may consider their services to be excellent value for money.
However, we saw a substantial rise in the number of students who claimed it was difficult to obtain assistance when they needed it.
70 percent of those who sought their university for assistance felt it was difficult, up from 51 percent in our 2020 poll.
What students have to say about the cost of tuition
- I’m a student nurse who has had to work for free during the epidemic […] and I have to pay all of my tuition costs, despite the fact that most of my classes are still taught online.
- This month, I want to send an official letter of protest seeking a partial tuition return.
- I wish the tuition price was cheaper this year since we had to do everything online, which was a huge challenge. I’m sure I would have received higher marks if I had gone to classes on campus.
- Students, like myself, have struggled financially as a result of having to pay rent for housing that we couldn’t live in. While simultaneously having to pay full tuition costs for a program that didn’t provide the same level of instruction. I’m now in a situation where I’ve had to spend a lot of money to go to university and haven’t gotten much out of it, and I’m now having trouble paying for my last year.
Graduate employment prospects for students
Since 2019, the percentage of students who are concerned about their graduation employment prospects has steadily increased.
In this year’s poll, 62 percent of students expressed concern about obtaining a graduate employment after graduation, up from 58 percent in 2020 and 51 percent in 2019.
As the pandemic’s economic effect has been more apparent, students have grown more pessimistic about their prospects of finding work after graduation.
Not only that, but they also anticipate lower graduation wages than in the past.
Students projected a graduate starting salary of £22,107 last year. This year, though, the average estimate has dropped to £21,216.
Jake Butler, a student money guru, says:
University students seem to be among the most impacted in a year when everything has been flipped upside down.
As we discovered, the typical student receives financing that is just slightly more than half of their living expenses. With an uncertain part-time work market and some parents losing income as a result of the epidemic, traditional financing options for students to bridge the financial gap have become scarce.
There is still a lot of ambiguity about what to anticipate this academic year, and the government has done very little to help students feel more at ease.
Despite the same financial expenditure, the educational experience over the last several years has just not been up to par. I’m not shocked that more kids are considering dropping out, but the fact that three out of every four have contemplated such a drastic measure is very concerning.
I would always advise students in this situation to contact their university’s support services since, in many instances, additional money is available.
Vice President for Liberation and Equality at NUS, Sara Khan, adds:
Food and housing are fundamental human rights that should be available to all students. Students should not have to struggle to meet fundamental needs and should be able to concentrate on enjoying and succeeding in their education.
Students have struggled to find employment, to attend their courses, have only been safeguarded by certain institutions via grade safety nets, and have struggled to obtain mental health assistance as a result of the epidemic.
This problem must finally be taken seriously by the government. Because universities are not isolated from the rest of society, a properly financed and resourced NHS is essential to ensure that waiting lists and expenses for mental health treatments, medicine, GP letters, and diagnostic tests do not become a barrier to anybody.
From birth to death, children should have free access to education. Tuition fees must be abolished, maintenance payments for students must be provided in lieu of the profit-driven Student Loan system, and our education system must be adequately funded, lifelong, accessible, and democratic.
In relation to this survey
Since 2013, we’ve been interviewing UK university students about their real-life money management experiences throughout their studies. Our unbiased results provide us a better understanding of the reality of student life and enable us to enhance the overall content and guidance on our website.
Please contact us if you have any questions or would want to learn more about this survey, case studies, or comments.
Cheat Sheet for Students on Money
In reaction to the alarming results of our recent nationwide student surveys, we developed the Student Money Takeaway site.
This free PDF document contains a one-minute budget sheet and is downloadable. Our website’s finest advice has been reduced down to only two pages.
The Student Money Survey 2021 – Results. Read more about save the student finance and let us know what you think.
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