Rising Living Costs Drive University Students to Excessive Paid Work
Image source: freepik.com

The escalating cost of living crisis is pushing an increasing number of university students into more hours of paid work, detrimentally affecting their academic performance. This unsettling trend, recently highlighted by a new survey, underscores the mounting financial pressures that students face, thereby impinging on their ability to focus solely on their studies.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The cost of living crisis is forcing more university students to take on additional hours of paid work.
  • The increase in part-time jobs among students is largely due to financial concerns and escalating living costs.
  • Balancing academic commitments with long hours of paid work is negatively impacting students’ academic performance and overall university experience.
  • Disadvantaged students are disproportionately affected by the current living crisis.
  • Further support from universities, advocacy organizations, and government bodies is crucial to address this pressing issue.

Financial Concerns Among University Students

Recent survey results from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) paint a stark picture of the financial concerns plaguing university students. More than half of the 10,000 students surveyed admitted to engaging in paid work during term time, using their wages primarily to support their studies. “The results highlight that financial concerns are felt across the board, and particularly by disadvantaged students, indicating a need for the sector to treat this as a matter of priority,” the authors reported.

As the cost of living crisis deepens, the number of students taking on part-time jobs has escalated dramatically over the years. In 2021, the survey found that 34% of UK students had jobs while studying. The figure jumped to 45% last year and surged to 55% this year, implying that students are increasingly struggling to cope with escalating living costs. A worrying 28% of students working 10 or more hours weekly claimed they needed the income to cover most of their living costs. This circumstance clearly underscores the gravity of the current living crisis.

The Impact of Paid Work on Academic Achievement

With an increasing number of university students succumbing to the pressures of the cost of living crisis and engaging in paid work, concerns about the negative impacts on academic achievement have escalated. Nick Hillman, the director of Hepi, has highlighted the severe consequences of students working long hours on top of their studies, labelling this as the “danger zone” of academic underachievement.

  • “If you’re doing 17 hours paid work or 20 hours paid work on top of that, that’s when it really affects your studies and it makes you more likely to drop out [and] less likely to do well in your degree,” Hillman stressed.
Cost of living rises
Image source: freepik.com

This pressure to maintain paid work often interferes with the time students should dedicate to their coursework, resulting in lesser engagement with their studies. Moreover, this situation tends to create an environment of chronic stress and fatigue, further eroding students’ cognitive abilities and focus. Additionally, students engaged in part-time jobs often find themselves missing valuable university experiences such as participating in clubs, societies, and networking events, which are essential for personal development and career opportunities. Hence, the excessive pursuit of paid work to counter living costs not only imposes stress but also significantly dilutes the overall quality of the university experience.

The Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on Students

The cost of living crisis is exerting a profound impact on university students. This ongoing crisis is forcing them to make significant lifestyle changes, compromising their academic performance and altering the quintessential university experience. The increasing need to juggle long hours of paid work with demanding studies imposes a heavy burden on students, further amplifying their financial concerns.

Students aged over 26, those with children or other caring responsibilities, and disadvantaged students are experiencing even greater strains. These groups often find themselves navigating tighter budgets and requiring additional work hours, exacerbating the existing stress of academic commitments. It is worth noting that this scenario runs counter to the ideal university environment that promotes learning and personal growth.

Furthermore, this crisis could potentially widen the attainment gap between wealthier students and their less privileged peers. Those who can rely on external support may not have to face the same struggles, and consequently, they might enjoy a more traditional and beneficial university experience.

In light of these realities, there is an increasingly pressing need for comprehensive support systems. Universities, advocacy organizations, and governments must recognize the gravity of the situation and implement effective measures to help students weather this crisis. Such initiatives could range from providing increased student support services to advocating for policy changes that alleviate the burden of rising living costs.

Also read:

Universities Adopt New Approaches to Decode the ‘Hidden Curricula’ for First-Time Students

Do You Miss College, Or Just the Idea of It? A Discussion on Post-College Nostalgia

Schools Can Play a Key Role in Combatting Youth Mental Health Crisis

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