College leaders have warned that dropout rates could rise as students struggle under pressure amid the cost of living crisis.
Vivian Stern, CEO of the University of the United Kingdom (UUK), said young people are opting out of higher education courses because they are unable to earn a living and are worried about balancing study and work. If you feel like you have to quit, it will be a tragedy.
Many people take extra time at part-time jobs to support their studies, a problem that affects students from more different backgrounds than was previously seen.
In an interview with PA news agency, she said: You can’t replenish your loan or help when you run out of money towards the end of the semester, but I don’t think your parents can possibly do that. It’s rising very fast.
“I think what we are really concerned about is hearing from a lot of people at college that students are probably taking on more jobs, paid jobs, than they would like.
“So they spend less time studying and more time working, which can ultimately lead to less successful courses and the risk of dropping out.”
Asked if she was concerned about rising dropout rates, she said: No numbers yet.
“As universities collect data at this time, it should begin to reveal whether there are patterns of concern, but dropout rates are likely to increase. The difficult decision to drop a course, not just for freshmen. The winners are the returning students in their second and third years.
“And I think it would be a bit of a tragedy if we lost a good student who could have been able to continue and complete the course because we were worried about making ends meet.”
The university has provided support to students in a number of ways, from free breakfasts at Durham University to energy grants worth £150 to eligible households at York University.
But UUK, the collective voice of 140 universities, is calling on governments to do more to help universities help their students.
Students risk becoming a “forgotten group” in the cost of living crisis, he said, as the value of loans cannot keep up with inflation.
The UUK wants action to ensure that the government’s difficult funding and support for UK students is protected from inflation.
Mr Stern said:
“Universities have their own hardship funds available, but I think we can offer some help here.”
A Department of Education spokeswoman said: Therefore, each year we have continued to increase the amount of loans and grants available to students for living and other expenses.
“Tertiary education providers can continue to support students in difficult situations through access to student insurance premiums, with £261 million of funding available through the Student Office this year.
“Many universities are also doing great work to support their students through various programs, and I encourage any student who is concerned about their situation to speak to them.”