Where has your student loan gone?
We all know that going to university is an expensive business, but none of us can ever be sure how expensive and why all of the money tends to just evaporate, leaving little clue as to where and how its disappeared.
Most of us know how the situation goes, you receive your student loan and bursaries in late September and by the end of the following month you’ve got no money and are left wondering how you’re going to pay housing and living expenses until the next instalment in January. But more importantly, you’re always left wondering where the money you’ve spent has disappeared too.
Adam’s a student just coming to the end of his first year who knows what it’s like to have to live off of very little money and still continue to have a goodtime. “You receive your loan and bursary in September and spend the next four weeks going out three or four nights a week, going on shopping sprees and eating good quality food. Then you look at your account balance and realise that what you’ve got left will leave you living off £20 a week and start panicking trying to find a job.”
There are more than 1.96 million students studying at universities all over the country, most facing the same dilemma of trying to make ends meet, but where do our priorities lay when it comes to spending the budget that we’re given.
A study has been carried out by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in 2007/08 to assess the income and expenditure of English students. The survey, carried out on 2335 students from constituencies all over the country, showed that the average student spent a total of £12,254 over the course of the year.
Accommodation or housing is a big factor for us students when working out how to spend our budgets and for some, the money provided by the government such as grants, does little but to just about cover the costs of accommodation. This makes accommodation rent, council tax and household bills the second largest category of expenditure for most of us. Adam, who has begun to put a deposit down on a house for the next year with three friends, explains how awkward the process can be. “Trying to organise a deposit for the following term and pay a final instalment on current accommodation has been made harder due to the dodgy date for a final instalment of student loan and bursary, which is deposited almost a month after the final instalment for rent is to be paid”. The average figure for such expenditures paid by each student per year was £2,455 or 20% of their overall budget, making it the second largest category for expenses.
Participation costs are the costs that students incur as a direct result of attending university or college and are the third-largest category of expenditure for most students. They include: the costs of course-related books, equipment and stationery, the costs of travelling to and from their university or college and all course fees paid by the students or paid by their families on their behalf and amount to, on average, £3,151 a year. However this cost is rarely recognised as a large sum of money due to the scheme put in place by student finance to pay the money directly to the universities and then secure the money back from students once they are earning over £15,000 a year.
The assessment shows that the average Joe spends a whopping 53% or £6,496 a year on living, which its states includes amenities such as food and drink, personal items such as clothes, toiletries, mobile phones, CDs, magazines and cigarettes, entertainment; including nightclubs, concerts, sports and gambling, household goods including cleaning and servicing costs and non-course travel such as holidays and visits to family and friends. This is by far the largest slice of the pie and also is the category offering the most diversity. A big part of student lifestyle is the social interaction of going on a night out and drinking high quantities of alcohol and such activities are not cheap. Being captain and president of the university football team, Adam tells, is as big a responsibility off of the pitch as it is on the pitch. “We organise a lot of nights out and must be seen to be at every event we fundraise for, which means we spend a lot of money on drink. We also make a point of going out every week after football matches for team bonding”. This in itself is an expensive task, but such activities are part of life and university lifestyle is the main driving factor in many people’s decisions to go to university, therefore making this category most expensive, but more importantly the most vital component of being at university.
If you need advice or assistance with any of the above issues, or would like to speak to a member of Student Finance UK, you can ring the information service on 0845 300 5090 between 9am -4pm Mon-Fri