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Most students underspending on essential food items


Study shows maintenance payments are falling way short of student costs

Almost two-thirds of students are now spending less than the minimum required to buy essential food items, an analysis by the Sutton Trust has suggested.

According to polling commissioned by the social mobility charity, 62 per cent of students spend less than £37 a week on food—the minimum needed for a single person, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust.

The analysis, published on 19 December, says students living at university in England outside London have median costs of £11,400 a year on essential spending. This includes accommodation (52 per cent of expenditure), groceries (12 per cent) and bills (6 per cent).

Loans ‘drastically less’ than spending

The median total maintenance loan of £7,000 outside London falls far short of meeting these basic needs, the charity states. The median loan in London is higher, at £8,500, but according to the Sutton Trust this is drastically less than the median spending of £17,287 by students in the capital.

This year, increases to maintenance loans in England were pegged at 2.8 per cent, considerably lower than the rate of inflation.

“To make ends meet, two-thirds of students reported taking on paid work, with 20 per cent working 16-30 hours per week,” said the Sutton Trust. “Forty-nine per cent have missed classes as a result, and 23 per cent reported that they had missed a deadline or asked for an extension in order to work.

“The median spending on essentials by students from working-class backgrounds is approximately 21 per cent less than those from middle-class families.”

Peter Lampl, founder of the charity, said it was a “disgrace” that student maintenance support has fallen so far behind rising living costs.

“No student should be forced to cut back on food,” he said. “Youngsters in England are getting a particularly raw deal compared to those studying elsewhere in the UK where they receive maintenance grants”.