University students depend heavily on parents for financial support as the maintenance loan falls short, the National Student Money Survey 2018 has revealed.

  • Parents give £138.50 a month on average to each child at university - but male students can expect a lot more
  • Poorer families contribute more than expected, while wealthier parents underpay
  • 42% of students feel disadvantaged by their household income
  • “Education seems to be only for the rich when at uni.”
  • Free tools to support money skills are available from savethestudent.org.

A lack of clarity about who should make up the student finance gap has led to the majority of parents having to provide cash handouts to their children, but it’s still not enough to stop hardship at university.

The annual national survey, by money advice site Save the Student, crunched 3,167 student responses to uncover the average parental contribution towards living costs.

Whilst the average contribution is less than £150 a month, almost 1 in 5 students receive in excess of £300. The survey also reveals a gender difference: male students pocket £161 a month on average, compared to female students who get £135.

Still, a third of all students feel parents don’t contribute enough, reflecting widespread confusion about the true cost of university, and who should pay.

The maintenance loan (student finance for living costs) is pegged against household income. Higher-earning parents are ‘expected’ to contribute more in place of Student Finance (see this calculator), while students from lower-income households can apply for a larger loan instead.

How much do parents really contribute?

Survey findings show the least well-off families over-contribute towards living costs, while higher earners fail to pay as much as expected.

parental contributions

Contributions also vary by living arrangements, with students renting in London facing the greatest disparity. In this case, parents earning below £25,000 overpay by £151 a month on average, while those on £45,000-55,000 underpay by £119 a month.

Average payouts to students living at home almost always fall below suggested amounts as well. Again, families earning below £25,000 are the exception - they pay £30 a month more than expected.

But however much money parents give, most students still struggle to get by: 78% worry about making ends meet, rising to 84% among those who don’t get any cash from parents.

Mel, a 2nd-year student at the University of Greenwich, comments:

“As a student midwife, I’m sometimes on placement 48 hours a week. It is almost impossible to work, study, get enough sleep and socialise on top of this.

My parents can't afford to support my living costs and the money I get from Student Finance (and NHS bursary) only just covers my rent. I have to work to be able to put food on the plate, let alone do anything else.”

Problems start with the way maintenance support is calculated. The survey reveals average student living costs are now £770 a month, but the average maintenance loan instalment** is £600 a month – that’s £170 too little.

Even those who get the maximum loan (£8,430 in 2017/18) could be short by up to £68 every month but, as these students will be from the lowest earning families, their parents may not be able to make up the difference.

Kami, a 2nd-year student at Ravensbourne University London, is entitled to the maximum loan:

“As my single mother is getting my brother and I through university at the same time, she has no excess money. This means we get by day-to-day.

Opportunities arise at university and always come with great expense, which means only students from wealthy backgrounds benefit from these opportunities (exchange programmes, internships, work placements). Education seems to be only for the rich when at uni.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Jamie, a 1st-year student at Keele University, comments:

“My family get a decent wage and therefore I am penalised as a student and get the minimum student loan. This loan does not even cover my accommodation costs.

It is ridiculous that my parents have to spend £800 of their own money just so I can live on campus (not including the £30 a week I get from them for food). My parents shouldn’t have to be worrying about making it through the month just so I can stay at university.”

With so many feeling they lose out by the way funding is allocated, dissatisfaction is common. Half (52%) of survey respondents say Student Finance is unfair, while 42% of students from both lower and higher income families believe their household income is a disadvantage.

Ultimately, the majority of students are under pressure to make ends meet. Nearly 1 in 3 students (27%) say grades suffer because of money worries, while half report mental health and diet suffers as a result.

Jake Butler, Save the Student’s money expert:

“When it comes to student loans, the focus always seems to be on the £9,250 tuition fees or the extortionate interest. But the real issue is the insultingly low maintenance loans alongside the government’s unwillingness to admit that parents are expected to make up the shortfall.

It’s a huge talking point between students. Are they fully-fledged adults who are expected to fund themselves? Should they be asking their parents for money? Should their parents be forced to help them out?

The government needs to put an end to this confusion by being more explicit about parental contributions and/or increase the maintenance loan amount so that it is actually in line with real living costs.”

Stephen McCartney, Chair of the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA):

“The results of this most recent survey are breath-taking – showing the disparity between what students and parents are told about how student funding has increased, while in reality it negatively impacts the families of those attending university or college. There are some positives here though, including the fact that twice as many students have found it easy to access money advice from their university compared to a year ago.”

** Average maintenance loan based on a student living away from home (outside London), and with a household income of £35,000.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page