Synonymous with attending university in the UK is the student debt this racks up, typically totalling tens of thousands of pounds. From the rising tuition fees (currently at £9,000 a year), to rocketing living costs barely covered by maintenance loans, a recent report by social mobility charity Sutton Trust indicates that students are saddled with an average of £44,000 in debt by the end of their university career.
Perhaps more alarming, is the impact this overwhelming level of debt is having on students’ lives. According to our recent research, over a third (39 per cent) said their debt has prevented them from being able to afford their weekly food shop, whilst over a quarter (27 per cent) have missed rent payments. Other effects are equally notable, with students saying their relationships (35 per cent), friendships (34 per cent) and exam results (32 per cent) had all been impacted due to debt-stress.
It’s distressing therefore that students are increasingly forced to rely on alternative sources of income to get through their studies, despite this potentially causing them to fall even further into debt. In times of need, two thirds (65 per cent) turn to friends and family, whilst others rely on their student overdrafts (58 per cent). Most alarmingly, some incur further debt on credit cards (6 per cent) and take out payday loans (9 per cent). As a result, a worrying 15 per cent have even been chased by debt collectors, demonstrating the severity of the issue.
It’s clear that debt can have a devastating impact on all aspects of peoples’ lives. That’s why we’re encouraging banks to up their game when it comes to providing money management advice and tools to students. More needs to be done to help them manage their finances responsibly, and to get through university without having to resort to other forms of borrowing.
Younger generations progressively rely on digital tools in most aspects of their lives, and personal financial management is no different. The demand for digital solutions is supported by our research, which states that over a third (34 per cent) of students agree their bank could do more to help, and two thirds (66 per cent) say debt would be less stressful if their bank offered access to a digital money management tool or app, to help them manage their maintenance loan incomings and outgoings.
University is a stressful time as it is. From the adjustment to living away from home and being independent, to making new friends, and the stress of passing exams – financial hardship is an anxiety that students could do without. Banks can play an important role in supporting students to get the most out of their studies by allowing them to focus on developing skills, and not their growing debt. By empowering students to have closer control of their finances and adopt efficient financial management practices, banks can use the power of technology to be a trusted ally to students, setting them up for a happy and successful start to their career.
First appeared at Finextra