Parents face £14,000 annual bill to support children at university | Personal Finance | Finance

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Parents of university students in England could be hit with an annual bill of nearly £14,000 to ensure their offspring can maintain a decent standard of living while studying, a new report has warned.

According to the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and TechnologyOne, students at universities outside London need £18,632 a year to reach an acceptable cost of living baseline. The Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University has created a minimum income standard (MIS) to calculate the necessary amount for students to “fully participate in higher education”.

The report highlights that the government’s maintenance support, intended to help students with living costs, often “falls short” even for those receiving maximum assistance. The shortfall for students studying outside London is around £8,405 for those from England, £6,482 for Welsh students, £7,232 for Scots, and £10,496 for students from Northern Ireland.

In the 2024/25 academic year, English undergraduates from households earning £25,000 or less will be eligible for a yearly maintenance loan of up to £10,227 if they live away from home and study outside London. Students from wealthier families can only access a reduced maintenance loan to assist with their living costs.

Researchers have calculated that families in England, with a child who isn’t employed and only receives the minimum upkeep support, would need to fork out £13,865 annually for them to reach the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). As for students in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the necessary contributions are £6,482, £10,232, and £13,548 respectively, reports the Mirror.

The publication sets a bare minimum standard of living as “more than just food, clothes and shelter”, but points to what individuals require to have the “opportunities and choices necessary to participate in society”. The report urges an escalation in the maximum level of government backing across the entire UK to help students, but it also argues that maintenance support shouldn’t be expected to cover all student expenses.

It indicates that students could indeed be “expected to do some part-time work” such as logging 525 hours of labour a year, equivalent to full-time employment over the summer or putting in 10 hours weekly throughout the year. The report continues: “Parents should not be expected to contribute to their children’s living costs if they cannot themselves reach a minimum acceptable standard of living.”

A recent study has revealed that second and third-year UK university students living in private rented accommodation are struggling to make ends meet, with researchers establishing a ‘minimum income’ needed for an acceptable standard of living after consulting various focus groups.

Josh Freeman, policy manager at the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and co-author of the report, expressed his concern: “Though we have known for some time that student maintenance is inadequate across the UK, the size of the gap is striking. It is time for a rethink of student maintenance support.”

He further added, “The report is very clear that we do not expect the Government to cover all students’ costs. In most cases, it might be reasonable for students to do some paid work. But the current situation, where many students have to work 20 hours or more to meet their costs, is unsustainable. Similarly, while it may be reasonable for some parents to contribute, the current expectation is highly demanding.”

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, also weighed in on the issue, pointing out the harsh reality facing students: “are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. While universities do all they can to support students, the maintenance package is falling short and has not kept pace with inflation.”

“Though we have known for some time that student maintenance is inadequate across the UK, the size of the gap is striking. It is time for a rethink of student maintenance support.”

“The report is very clear that we do not expect the Government to cover all students’ costs. In most cases, it might be reasonable for students to do some paid work. But the current situation, where many students have to work 20 hours or more to meet their costs, is unsustainable. Similarly, while it may be reasonable for some parents to contribute, the current expectation is highly demanding.”

“are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. While universities do all they can to support students, the maintenance package is falling short and has not kept pace with inflation.”

Chloe Field, VP Higher Education at the National Union of Students (NUS) stated: “After a decade of the poorest students graduating with the highest debt, it is clear that the current funding model for education is broken and needs urgent repair. The image of students partying all the time, skipping lectures for hangovers isn’t true: we simply dream of a world where we can commit proper time and energy into our studies and can afford to spend time with our friends.”

Meanwhile, the Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson responded saying: “Our student finance system ensures that the highest levels of support are targeted at students from the lowest income families. We are increasing loans and grants for living and other costs, along with freezing tuition fees for the seventh year running to reduce the amount of debt students will take on.”

They also added: “We have also increased the Student Premium for 2024-25 by £5million to top up the help that universities are providing through their own bursary, scholarship and hardship support schemes.”

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