Government tells students to live more frugally
The government has said students have a choice to make when student loans are not enough to cover their living costs.
Credit: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency – Flickr
The government's Universities Minister, Jo Johnson, has dismissed the idea that some students face unavoidable money troubles, saying those “focusing on their studies” and who “live very modestly and have a frugal existence” will do just fine.
Mr Johnson's comments, made at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday, come just days after Theresa May promised to freeze tuition fees and increase the loan repayment threshold for graduates, and will threaten the party’s attempt to win back the support of young people.
Here at Save the Student we have consistently argued that maintenance loans aren't big enough, and just last month reported that the government expects parents to contribute up to £5,372 to cover the funding gap. We also recently revealed the worrying lengths that students are going to to make ends meet.
"Out of touch"
Mr Johnson, brother of Boris, acknowledged that there is a funding gap, but explained that it does not necessarily have to be “filled by parental contributions”. He said:
Some students want to live very modestly and have a frugal existence, focusing on their studies. Other students may want a different lifestyle, but there isn’t one cost of going to university – it’s a very specific choice that each individual will make.
Wes Streeting, Labour MP and a former president of the National Union of Students said
Ministers need to get real about the pressures on students’ finances.
Too many students are now struggling to make ends meet on student loans alone and, even where they can find part-time work, students from the poorest backgrounds have less time to spend on their course because they're spending too much time stacking shelves or pulling pints.
Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, accused Mr Johnson of “patronising students” with his suggestions of ways to make money. She said:
These comments reveal a minister so out of touch he doesn't seem to care that students are being saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt, and their families are experiencing the worst fall in wages for 200 years.
Campaigning for better
Our National Student Money Survey found that just 34% of students think the maintenance loan is enough to live on
NUS Vice President, Amatey Doku, said that with maximum maintenance loans still not covering living costs, it's no wonder that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are still 35% less likely to go to university. He added:
With the situation as it is, we can never achieve equality in this country. The education system is in urgent need of change.
While Theresa May’s recent changes were heralded by Mr Johnson, the Labour party have labelled them as “desperate”. Mr Streeting commented.
Instead of tinkering around the edges with tuition fees, the Tories should re-introduce non-repayable grants for the poorest students, which they so callously scrapped.
The criticism hasn't stopped there. One of the Theresa May's own colleagues, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, said that it was "not enough" to just freeze fees.
Making money at university
Despite arguing that students could live on their maintenance loans alone, without any help from their parents, Jo Johnson provides no useful advice to students struggling to afford to live.
Like Mr Streeting, we at Save the Student believe that reintroducing grants for poorer students would be a significant step forward (or, more accurately, reversing the step backwards) in tackling this problem.
However, with no changes forthcoming, gathering tips and tricks for making and saving money while you’re studying is sensible. What's more, regardless of your financial situation at uni, these are skills that will prove invaluable in adult life!
Our list of 55 practical ways to save money has loads of excellent and original ideas for saving on your necessities, finding alternatives, and making use of discounts.
What are your thoughts on Jo Johnson's comments? Let us know in the comments below!