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University students taking on additional debt as the cost of living crisis intensifies

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Almost half (48 per cent) of undergraduate university students agree they will be taking on additional debt beyond their student loans to cope with the crippling cost of living crisis, according to a new report released today.

The Student Happiness Index*, undertaken by Endsleigh Insurance in partnership with the National Union of Students (NUS), is a specialist original research project which delves into the concerns of undergraduates and post-graduates across the UK. Today marks the release of its second edition, following the launch report last year.

Financial burden is the biggest worry for students

The 2022 report confirms that personal finance is the top concern for undergraduate students, with 46 per cent worried about the rising cost-of-living.

As a result, students said they will take out additional credit cards or overdrafts to stay afloat, in addition to the average loan debt of £45,800** they accumulate while at university. Meanwhile, more than two thirds (79 per cent) say they will need to get a part-time job, or increase the hours they work in an existing one.

Nightlife and socialising are also set to play a less prominent role in student life, with almost three quarters (72 per cent) of undergraduates planning to go out less, in order to conserve spending.

Rising prices could also deter students from London universities. Two-fifths (39 per cent) of the undergraduates surveyed said they would now pick a university outside of the capital and 14 per cent are considering moving closer to home to save money. 

Student happiness improves year-on-year but mental health struggles continue

Endsleigh’s report monitors students’ overall levels of happiness and well-being. Promisingly, overall happiness levels have improved significantly compared to a year ago when university life was heavily disrupted by Covid restrictions: the overall student happiness score is +36 per cent in 2022, compared to -16 per cent in 2021.

However, mental health continues to be a significant concern. Three in ten (30 per cent) undergraduates said their mental health has deteriorated in the past year, and around one in four (26 per cent) said they’ve accessed specialist support to help improve their wellbeing.

Alison Meckiffe, CEO, Endsleigh Insurance, said:

The second edition of our annual report shows promising signs that student happiness has increased overall. But we can’t ignore the huge financial challenges many are facing. In 2020 and 2021, campus life was upended by the pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crunch is causing concern for students during what is meant to be the best time of their lives.

“For those that are concerned about their finances, Endsleigh’s Student Assistance Programme now provides advice for undergraduates and post-graduates who may find themselves in a situation of financial hardship. For any students needing specialist support to help with mental health we also provide 24-hour support and offer counselling on many issues faced by students.”

Other findings from the 2022 Student Happiness Index include:

  • One in four (23 per cent) undergraduates say they are less likely to give their political views because of ‘cancel culture’ within the university
  • Almost one in five (17 per cent) say there is a culture of toxic masculinity on their campus
  • A third (31 per cent) are still feeling the adverse effects of Brexit

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