UNITE STUDENTS INSIGHT REPORT

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1 FINANCE UNITE STUDENTS INSIGHT REPORT

2 CONTENTS 3 Foreword 4 How affordable is higher education? 6 Managing unexpected debt 8 The risk of high interest loans 10 Where s the money going to come from? 11 How do you feel about debt? 12 Do you have enough? 13 Postgraduate experience

3 FOREWORD The first and most encouraging finding is more than half of students feel they have enough money available to get through their studies, and despite any other findings we should not lose sight of that. But we must also note a 1 increase this year in students who say they do not have enough to live on. That movement appears to come from those who, last year, were not certain. This year there appears to be more clarity as to whether the financial package is sufficient, and it seems to be in the direction of not feeling supported. The reasons for that are unclear and more research in this area would be very welcome. There has also been an increase in the number of students who say they have taken on more debt than expected. The 7% jump is not huge, but a big swing in one year. More reassuringly we have seen a small decrease in the numbers of students using payday loan providers. But there are still almost 32,000 UK students currently using them, and the proportion of Applicants who say they plan to use those services remains concerning. Student finance is important: if students are concerned about financial matters then they will not be able to focus on their studies and do their best. For that reason I am very pleased to introduce the Unite Students Insight Report: Finance, based on Unite Students survey of 8,500 Applicants, Undergraduates and Postgraduates living and studying in the UK. The majority of students are moving away from home and living independently for the first time. In some cases, a lack of experience in budgeting can lead them into financial difficulty. The UK s higher education sector provides excellent support for students around their personal finance, and I hope the data in this report will be of value to these services. However there are groups of students who appear consistently to be at greater risk of financial stress. These groups are highlighted in this report. The next academic year will see the introduction of the government s taught postgraduate tuition loan system. We know Postgraduates have been supportive of that idea, and I look forward to future Unite Student Insight Reports examining how well these have been received. Jenny Shaw Unite Students head of higher education engagement & student services Join the conversation at 3

4 HOW AFFORDABLE IS HIGHER EDUCATION? 58% of black students say they do not have enough to meet their needs just 27% of Postgraduates feel the current funding system works. 4

5 Over a third of current Undergraduates do not believe their finance package is enough to meet their real-world living costs - a rise of 50% in one year. A further 8.5% do not know if it will be enough, although reassuringly some 55% say they are suffi ciently supported. YEAR-ON-YEAR The proportion of Undergraduates who say their fi nance package does not meet their needs has risen from 24% in to 36% this year MRC = M- +50% / x - + M+ ON/C Interestingly, those who say they are well-supported has decreased by just 1%. Instead, there has been a signifi cant drop in the Don t knows - from 20% last year to 8.5% in. 58% 57% 55% 45% 43% 36% WHO IS MOST AFFECTED? Black students are the most likely to say they do not have enough to meet their needs. Well over half 58% say they need more. This is closely followed by those estranged from their parents (57%) and year-olds (55%). Average Black Estranged Age Care leavers Disabled Care leavers and disabled students are also ahead of the 36% average at 45% and 43% respectively. IS THIS [STUDENT FINANCE] PACKAGE ENOUGH TO MEET YOUR LIVING COSTS? 8.5% % No Yes % I DON T KNOW 8.5% POSTGRADUATE PERSPECTIVE Some 8 of Postgraduates feel there should be a tuition fee system for taught postgraduate courses - high, but a 10% reduction on Just 27% feel the current funding system works. It will be interesting to see whether this changes following the introduction of the postgraduate tuition loan system next year. I don t know 5

6 MANAGING UNEXPECTED DEBT 46% of students aged are likely to take on unexpected extra debt over 5 of care leavers have taken on extra debt 6

7 The proportion of Undergraduates who have taken on more debt than they expected has increased by 7% in one year. Almost a third (3) of Undergraduates say their debts are greater than expected, compared to a quarter (25%) of Undergraduates in Meanwhile, there is a corresponding decrease in those who say they have not taken on any debt, from 28% in 2014 to 2 this year. WHERE DEBT HITS HARDEST Two out of the three top groups who have taken on extra, unexpected debt care leavers and students aged tally with those at greatest risk of using payday loan services (see Payday Loans, p.7). Amongst those who have taken on more debt than expected, care leavers are the negative outliers. More than half (5) have taken on extra debt. 5 46% 46% 44% 44% 44% 41% Students who are estranged from their parents and those aged are both 46% likely to take on unexpected extra debt. See the chart to the right for a full breakdown. 3 Average Care leavers Estranged Age Age Black Gay/Lesbian Disabled 3 40% 5.5% 2 I have taken on more debt than I expected to I have taken on as much debt as I expected to I have taken on less debit than I expected to I have not taken on any debt UNDERGRADUATES DEBT EXPECTATIONS MONTHLY PAYMENT OVERDUE UNAUTHORISED OVERDRAFT PHONE BILL FINAL NOTICE POSTGRADUATE PERSPECTIVE A huge 44% of Postgraduates say they have not taken on any debt double the Undergraduate level. However, for domestic postgraduates this drops to 39%. 7

8 THE RISK OF HIGH INTEREST LOANS 27% of undergraduates dip into bank overdrafts Students estranged from their parents are more than 4 times more likely to take out a high risk loan 8

9 Almost 32,000 UK students are using payday loans and similar high interest debt to fund everyday costs of living. While 1.5% of current Undergraduates say they use the high-interest loan fi rms, some of Applicants say they are planning to use them a potential further 10,000+ payday loan customers. Some 1% of Postgraduates are using payday loans. Average annual percentage interest rates (APR) on payday loans could be up to 1,500% over a year, compared to 18% for a typical credit card. The three groups most at risk of using high-interest loan services are: Black students are 4% liable. Students aged are 4% liable. Those estranged from their parents, who at a 6.5% likelihood are over four times the UK average. LOAN AGREEMENT % DEBT BEHAVIOUR Our survey highlights a number of other indicators which suggest students at risk of fi nancial stress. Some groups are more liable than others to use hardship funds, which is usually an indicator that the student has exhausted all other avenues. Of those who use hardship funds, care leavers and those with a disability, at 5% likelihood each, are exactly double the UK average. Those estranged from their parents are on 8%. Those most likely to use hardship funds, at 11%, are those who, with reference to sexual orientation, refer to themselves as Other neither bisexual or straight, nor those who have opted not to disclose. Hardship funds Bank overdrafts Payday loans Credit cards Student Average 2.5% 1.5% 8.5% 27% I believe the data reported raises important questions for everyone in the sector about how we provide financial support to those who are particularly vulnerable to financial exclusion. WHO USES PAYDAY LOANS? 6.5% 4% 1.5% Average Care Leavers Age Both OFFA and individual universities might want to reflect on whether the predicted expenditure on financial support for lower income and other under-represented groups in -16 is sufficient and whether there is a need to look at how it is targeted to these groups. 4% Black Students Professor Stuart Billingham Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning and Trustee of the Unite Foundation 9

10 WHERE S THE MONEY GOING TO COME FROM? Expectation meets reality in large part, but there are some notable exceptions. Part-time work does not feature nearly as much as expected, and neither do savings. Students use bank overdrafts more than they expected to. Student finance package (grants and loans) 79% 78% Part time work 39% 68% Family (spouse, partner, parents or other relatives) or friends 54% 51% Savings 39% 50% Bursary (e.g. social work, teacher training, university, charity) 30% 27% Scholarship (e.g. from an employer) 10% 7% Bank overdrafts 9% 27% Other grant (e.g. adult dependents, childcare, travel) 7% 4% Credit cards 6% 9% I don t know yet Disabled students allowance Institutional hardship funds 5% 1% 4% 6.5% 3% 3% Applicants Undergraduates Other types of loans 3% Payday loan / doorstep cash / cash-a-cheque Other 1.5% 1% UK citizen students are significantly more likely than international students to use: BIGGEST DIFFERENCES: Part time work 68% 39% 29% A student fi nance package Disabled Student Allowance Bursaries Scholarships Bank overdrafts Part-time work 10 Savings Bank overdrafts 50% 39% 11% 9% 27% 18% Applicants Undergraduates Difference International students are more likely to use: Family support

11 HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DEBT? Applicants and Undergraduates have a very similar outlook to debt. The top response: Debt is something I wish students could avoid takes 47% of the answer for both. We cannot be clear whether that refers to tuition fee debt, living cost debt or both. Despite the many government communications suggesting student debt is long-term and manageable, just 4% of undergraduates and 3% of applicants see student fi nance as an easy to manage long-term loan. Around a third selected options accepting of indebtedness. Debt is something I wish students could avoid 47% 47% It is difficult not to get into debt as a student 11% 15% Debt is a normal part of student life 10% 11% Debt is a necessary burden of being at university 10% 11% Debt is an investment for my future 7% 8% I want to manage my debt 4% 7% Debt is an easy to manage long term loan 3% 3% I don t see debt as an issue I feel differently about debt 1% Applicants Undergraduates 11

12 DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH? In both Applicants and Undergraduates there has been a move away from saying I don t know when compared to last year. For Applicants the I don t know votes appear to have been redistributed roughly 2 to 1 towards saying it will be sufficient. For Undergraduates the apparent move is 100% towards saying it is not enough. This is covered in extra detail on page 4 Affordability. IS THE AVAILABLE FINANCE SUFFICIENT TO COVER YOUR LIVING COSTS? YES NO I DON T KNOW % 14% 20% 20% 26% 24% 35% 36% 45% 56% 55% ACCOUNT LOGIN Applicants Undergraduates 60% 12

13 POSTGRADUATE EXPERIENCE HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? PAYING FOR POSTGRAD Postgraduates feel both they and their fi nancial needs are misunderstood by the government and the wider world. When asked if the [Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition] government understood the needs of postgraduate students just 20% agreed. And when asked if UK society understands their needs only 27% agreed, 6% down in one year. Average yearly postgraduate tuition fees of those who pay: 7,811 13% pay nothing -9% -3% -7% 30% 5 I think that there should be a tuition fee loan system for postgraduate taught students - -6% -3% -6% -3% -5% -14% 44% 35% -15% 45% 31% -17% 43% 3 I think that there should be an option for delayed payments for postgraduate taught students I think that alternative funding models for postgraduate taught students will increase the numbers of students applying for postgraduate study I think that alternative funding models for postgraduate taught students will widen the demographic spread of those who undertake postgraduate study -20% -27% -25% 19% 8% I think that UK society understands the needs of taught postgraduate students -14% -25% -34% 2 5% I think that the current postgraduate funding system works -21% -31% -28% 14% 6% I think that the current government understands the needs of taught postgraduate students Neither Disagree Strongly Agree Strongly disagree agree SOURCES OF FINANCE Savings 41% Family (spouse, partner, parents, other) or friends 35% Scholarship (e.g. from an employer, institution) 26% Bursary (e.g. institution, social work grant) Credit cards 11% 14% Tuition fee loan Bank overdrafts Maintenance loan Research grant Other bank loan Career development loan Disabled students allowance 7% 6% 4.3% 4% 3% 10% 10% Other grant (e.g. Adult dependents, childcare, travel) Charitable support Payday loan / doorstep cash / Cash-a-cheque Other None of the above 1% 6% 10% 13

14 Unite Students The Core 40 St Thomas Street Bristol BS1 6JX unite-students.com

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