Broke: How Scotland is Failing its Students

NUS Scotland has launched new research on the state of student poverty in Scotland.

Download the report (PDF)

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National Union of Students demands action to address rising student poverty found in the report:

  • 12% of all students have experienced homelessness since starting their studies, rising to an incidence of one in three amongst estranged and care-experienced students  
  • A third of students (35%) have considered dropping out of their course due to financial difficulties and a quarter of students (25%) had been unable to pay their rent in full on one or more occasion 
  • Around two thirds (64%) have experienced mental ill-health as a result of financial pressures and 60% of students worry or stress about their finances “frequently” or “all the time” 
  • More than half (56%) of respondents said it was hard to cope financially over the summer 
  • Nearly one in three (31%) students have relied on commercial debt such as credit cards, Klarna or payday loans, with a quarter reliant on bank overdrafts and 8% of respondents depend on foodbanks 
  • 65% of respondents who applied for discretionary funding either received no support or not enough support

Around two-thirds of students have experienced mental ill-health as a result of financial pressures and a third have considered dropping out of their course due to finances according to new figures published today (Monday 21 February) by NUS Scotland. 
The research, commissioned by the National Union of Students, is based on a survey of over 3,500 college and university students and covers homelessness, housing, student finances, and mental health and wellbeing. 

Hundreds of students and staff are expected at a rally for education tomorrow (22nd February) outside of the Scottish Parliament to demand an end to student poverty and our staff being valued.

Struggling to get by 

Overall, 12% of respondents had experienced homelessness during their studies and 8% of students had to rely on food banks to get by. One in four students said they had been unable to pay their rent in full on one or more occasion, while around a third (31%) of students relied on commercial debt to cover the costs of living.
Students increasingly are working longer hours on top of their courses with almost half (47%) of all students working up to 20 hours per week in addition to their full-time course, detracting from their time to study and increasing their stress. 

Most vulnerable students hardest hit

For students who are more vulnerable and disadvantaged (those who come from widening access groups), the situation is even more alarming. Across almost every survey question they reported greater financial difficulty. These groups were the most concerned about their finances, reported the greatest impact on their mental health, and were more likely to have considered dropping out due to financial difficulty. 
One in three estranged students had experienced homelessness, and 15% of all students with caring responsibilities relied on food banks. Half of all care experienced students had considered dropping out of their studies due to financial difficulties, and three in four disabled students reported their mental health had been impacted due to the financial pressures of being a student. 

Commenting, Matt Crilly NUS Scotland President said:

“Students in Scotland are being failed by a broken system which is leaving many without enough money to live. With more than a third of students at risk of dropping out, real action is needed – not words.

“More than four years ago the Student Support Review recommended that student support should meet the real living wage. This Scottish Government has failed to put that recommendation into action and now students are also being met with inflation-busting increases in our rents and a soaring cost of living.

“It is no wonder students are dependent on foodbanks, working excessive hours on top of their coursework, experiencing homelessness at an alarmingly high rate, and taking on more and more debt.

“This report comes just a week after the Scottish Government has chosen to abandon students being hit hardest by the rising fuel costs by excluding them for the one-off £150 payment and real terms cuts to college and university budgets.  
“The Scottish Government should accelerate its commitment to bring student support up to the real living wage. It should address the gross inequality that this report lays out through the experiences of students from widening access backgrounds, and it should enact the recommendations laid out in this research.”

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