One in 10 students turn to food banks due to learning cost crisis | Food banks

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More than one in 10 students use food banks because they can’t make ends meet during the cost of living crisis, according to a National Union of Students (NUS) survey.

The survey of more than 3,500 university students found that 11% are using food banks, up from 5% in January, while 96% are cutting back on spending due to soaring prices and bills.

One in five say they are unable to afford toiletries and one in 10 cannot buy sanitary products when needed.

It was reported last month that there has been a 3,000% increase in the number of graduates who owes over £100,000 in student loan debt.

In 2016, the charity Sutton Trust found that UK graduates had the highest debts in the English-speaking world and the average loan balance had increased since then.

The NUS survey found that a third of students live on less than £50 a month after paying their rent and bills, with many reporting that their maintenance funds are not enough to pay for a weekly shop, enable them to to go to university or to cover their energy bills.

The survey also revealed a crisis in the cost of learning, as three-quarters of students said they would be unable to afford course materials without more support.

Four in 10 (42%) say they can’t get to campus or have to travel less, and 41% neglect their health to save money, missing out on “extras” like appointment at the dentist.

Nine in 10 (92%) say the crisis is affecting their mental health, with 31% saying rising costs are having a “major” impact.

Only a fifth of students say they have received government support and only 8% said they believe ministers are doing enough to support them.

More than eight in 10 (83%) have sought financial help through other means, such as using credit cards, “buy now, pay later” credit programs like Klarna, or taking out bank loans.

More than half (53%) of students say they have turned to family and friends for help, while 40% have contacted them for loans.

A third of students say the rising cost of living has also had an impact on their families. Students with family responsibilities and disabilities, those away from their families and people from disadvantaged backgrounds have all been more affected by the crisis.

A NUS spokesperson said: “Huge increases in the price of bills, food and the cost of living, coupled with soaring rents, are putting students on the brink…We see the stress and the anxiety pile up on them because of debt bouncing between different cards to stay afloat.

“Despite all this, students are completely ignored by the government. These conclusions are grim; we are knee deep in a crisis in the cost of learning that will hit the poorest students the hardest.

The union has called on the government to introduce a tailored cost-of-living support program for students, as well as align student maintenance provisions and the minimum wage for apprentices with the living wage .

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