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St Andrews student warns cost of living crisis could force poorest to quit university

Students are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Students are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Students are demanding the Scottish Government steps in to offer financial aid over the summer to help cope with the cost of living crisis.

Barry Will, 26, who is in his third year at St Andrews, warned students struggling to make ends meet could be forced to leave university altogether as energy bills and rental prices soar.

A recent survey carried out by the government found more than 60% of students had experienced money worries during the summer months when loan payments stop.

Mr Will warned renters attending university in St Andrews and across Scotland are reaching a “crisis point”.

The 26-year-old, who studies sustainable development and runs a campaign for affordable housing at the university, previously had to move home because his rent became too expensive.

He said: “Students are, across all demographics, the most impacted by the cost of living and energy crisis.

“Personally, I had to move house because of rent increases. We couldn’t afford it anymore.

“I was having to work so much that it was impacting my studies and my life.”

‘New landscape of inequality’

He added: “Without financial support there is this new landscape of inequality in Scotland where the poorest students have to drop out and leave their degrees because they can’t afford it anymore.

“I’ve known people who’ve dropped out.

“The poorest students are facing all the burdens. It’s causing them the most stress and anxiety, and it’s also impacting their degrees.”

While many students survive by working over the summer, the Scottish Government’s survey found the majority either struggled to find employment or were only offered part-time hours.

St Andrews University
St Andrews University.

Mr Will said St Andrews students can often struggle to find jobs due to the smaller size of the university town.

NUS Scotland have been calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a formal summer payment for students across the country.

But Mr Will believes ministers need to go further and introduce new legislation which stops the cost of living from continuing to rise further for struggling students.

North East Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba.

He was disappointed when the SNP and Greens voted down a bill from North East Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba aimed at enacting a rent freeze.

The Scottish Government are considering enacting rent controls by 2026, but critics say action is needed sooner to help students.

The student said: “It’s all fair and well to ensure we have a financial package available over summer, but that also needs to come alongside legislation that can control the private housing market to ensure that students are not burdened with extortionate renting costs.

“The funding that the government does provide has not increased in years despite increases in inflation and the cost of living.

“If there is a financial package, they need to take into account that it’s now more expensive than ever to be a student.”

The figures from the Scottish Government’s survey were branded “shocking” by a branch of the National Union of Students.

‘Cut off from support’

Kirsten Koss, from the North East Scotland College Students’ Association, said: “Our bills are rising the same as everyone else but we’re cut off from student support during the summer.

“We’ve been excluded from the Scottish Government’s £150 cost-of-living payment and most of us aren’t eligible for benefits so we won’t get the UK Government’s cost of living payment either.

“The Scottish Government made big promises on student support in last year’s election, but we can’t pay our bills with promises.

“We urgently need a Student Summer Payment so that no student falls into poverty between terms.”

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