Half of students in England struggle with financial difficulties, with a quarter taking on additional debt and three in ten skipping lectures and tutorials to cut costs, according to a examination by the Office for National Statistics.
More than nine in 10 students (91%) who took part in the survey said they were worried about the cost of living and 45% said their mental health had worsened as a result over the autumn.
Amid warnings that students risk being forgotten victims of the cost of living crisis, almost one in five respondents said they had considered putting their education on hold until next year.
Almost two thirds (62%) have cut back on food shopping, almost two in five (38%) have reduced their use of gas and electricity to keep costs down and more than half (52%) have had to rely on savings to cope.
More than three quarters (77%) said they were worried the crisis would affect how well they did in their degree. Four in 10 (40%) said they studied more at home to save on costs rather than going to campus, and one in five (21%) attended lectures remotely where possible.
Tim Gibbs from the ONS said: “In common with the majority of adults we surveyed, these results show that most students in higher education are experiencing the impact of increases in the cost of living. But for some, this may also impact on their educational experience, where some are cutting back on non-compulsory aspects of their course to save money and are considering other options, such as suspending their studies.”
The survey, which attracted 4,201 responses from mainly students at a range of universities in England, found that 29% chose not to attend non-compulsory lectures and tutorials to save costs, while 31% avoided field trips and conferences to keep costs down .
Almost one in five (18%) students said they had considered moving back to their family home and commuting to their university from there, and 6% planned to do so. Although 19% of students said they had considered suspending their studies and resuming next year, only 1% were actively planning to do so.
Similarly, 19% had considered switching from classroom-based to distance learning, but only 2% had plans to do so. The cost of living crisis is also helping to shape future plans, with more than a third (34%) now less likely to do further study after completing their course.
Of the four students who reported taking on new debt in response to the rising cost of living — either by borrowing more or using additional credit — two-thirds (66%) said their student loans weren’t enough to live on.
When asked whether they would be able to ask a family member for money, almost half (48%) said they could not. Many universities have offered financial aid to students hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, but only 16% of respondents had applied for scholarships, 7% had applied for money from their university endowments and 5% for other financial aid.
Prof Steve West, the President of the Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol said: “Students are at risk of becoming the forgotten group in the cost of living crisis. We need the Government to work with us and provide targeted emergency funding to protect them now, before their living costs become so high that they cannot are able to continue studying.
“Should this happen, it is a tragic loss of talent to the country and a personal loss that crushes hope, opportunity, potential and social mobility. We cannot afford to let it happen.”
A separate report from Endsleigh’s student help programme, a service that provides 24/7 support for students, said calls from students seeking financial aid had increased by 39%, while calls regarding student accommodation were up by 46%. Endsleigh said there had been a 70% increase in calls from students seeking support for depression.
A Department for Education spokesman said the Government provided £261m. in emergency aid in 2022-23 for students most in need, adding: “Many universities are doing fantastic work to support their students through a range of programmes. We encourage all students who are concerned about their circumstances to speak to their University.”