Moving to university is daunting. In addition to the pressure to make friends, the surgical removal of your comfort zone and Student Accommodation Kitchen Nightmares, there is another background stress lurking in every student’s mind: money. From coin-operated washing machines to train journeys, unexpected expenses can pile up and create serious trouble for students both new and old. So, what can be done about it?
Nearly all students in the UK are reliant on student loans, however there is a difference between Scotland and England in the way money is distributed. SAAS payments in Scotland are a monthly staple, with a maximum of £575 paid out each month over the academic year.
In England however, there are three lump instalments of over £1,269.90. For students already struggling to regulate money income and outgoings, a lump sum like this can be catastrophic. It is far harder to restrain spending when faced with four digits in your bank account. As well as being more psychologically realistic when considering monthly rents being taken out of bank accounts, this can create problems as the end of the month looms and credit cards begin to flex under the weight of all those shots you thought you could afford.
The Scottish system also sets up students well for life after university, where future jobs will deposit salaries into their accounts monthly. This of course makes it easier to set a monthly budget. The problem with budgeting is that it isn’t sexy. It isn’t fun. It’s boring and depressing and it’s often a realisation that you can’t do it.
One only has to look at modern day depictions of students to realise the severe manipulation at work. Designer clothes, the latest shiny Apple products, expensive Instagram food goals – it’s a reality set quite apart from Primark, Lidl, and the same cracked phone screen you’ve been staring at for three years. And yet it is students who are targeted for these money-making schemes, the people who categorically don’t have any money, and why? Well students will buy them anyway, because budgeting is boring.
That isn’t to say students are to blame for their money trouble. Private student accommodation has become extortionate, with students paying up to £600 a month for all the private space of a standard room. Private landlords also have no issue with charging young people high prices for substandard living conditions, as any student living in a budget flat viewing will testify. And of course, the fact that most universities are situated in cities drive living costs up even higher. It is clear that action needs to be taken.
The key to financial survival at university is preparation and this is a responsibility that schools must undertake. Prospective students need to be aware of the pitfalls of student life, and so education is key to anticipating these costs. And no, not in a classroom environment where pupils can drift off. It needs to be an assembly that scares sense into them, the kind that pupils talk about afterward in hushed, fearful voices. It needs to make budgeting not fun, but essential. It needs to show how easy it is to fall into financial danger without sensibility and self-control. And if schools can achieve this, the future of our finances will all look a little safer.