University is often hailed as some of the best years of a person’s life. However, one element that is disconcerting to many prospective students is the financial burden. Despite the fact that student loans are available to many undergraduates, the reality is that they do not cover the increasing prices of rent in university cities.
The maximum student loan for a UK student outside of London is £8,700, however the average is closer to £6,000, and for Northern Irish students it is significantly lower at a maximum of £4,840. For many students it is unfeasible to rely on a student loan without the aid of either a part time job or parental help.
For example, a catered room in University of Edinburgh accommodation starts at £6,850 which is already more than the typical student loan. These realities have led to students all over the UK protesting for better rent control and prices.
One of these students is second-year anthropology student at Durham, Caitlin Ghibout. She, along with other student activists across the country, will be starting a Cut the Rent campaign which aims to challenge the high costs of university accommodation.
University is arguably stressful enough with essays and deadlines and to add financial struggles to that list is something no student wants to have to deal with.
According to the National Union of Students, rent accounted for 73 per cent of the maximum student loan last year, compared with 58 per cent in 2011-12. In the larger university cities such as London and Edinburgh, costs may be even higher. Therefore, a student from a lower income family may be deterred from choosing a university in one of these cities simply due to the financial strain they would be under.
Rent prices have been progressively growing since 2010, making it increasingly more difficult for a student to rely on a student loan as their only financial income.
One reason for the ever-increasing rent costs is the fact that more and more people are choosing to carry on their education and embark on a university course. While this in itself is great, it is not ideal for those paying accommodation expenses because as the demand rises, so too does the cost.
The government has recognised the affordability problem, and in their recent Augar review of post-18 funding and education it recommended that universities work with the government and the regulator to monitor the costs, profit margins, and quality of student housing.
Many student activists are hopeful that this is just the start of a conversation that is vital in regard to student wellbeing and financial security while at university.
However, concerns still exist among students, as it is predicted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors that accommodation prices will soar even further in the next five years up to as much as 15 per cent. Students already accumulate an excessive amount of debt by the end of their studies and these high rental costs are only likely to add more undue stress to those already struggling to make ends meet.
The Cut the Rent campaign is one of the ways students are expressing their frustrations at the number of students being pushed into serious financial hardship by the cost of their rent.
Their hope is to spur both universities and the government to take action and cut the rent for students before the costs rise even higher.
Illustration: Eliza Bramwell