A majority of Scottish students have concerns about how they will cope financially because of the impact of coronavirus, a new survey has found.
The National Union of Students Scotland study suggests 78% are worried about the effect of the pandemic, with almost a quarter (24%) stating they were either “extremely” or “very” concerned.
The poll of 549 Scottish students carried out in March revealed 31% were left unable to pay bills during the previous three months, including 24% who could not pay their full rent.
One in 10 students who sought support during the pandemic received help from a food bank, according to the survey.
There were also 22% who relied on credit cards, 8% on bank loans and 16% on credit schemes to make ends meet.
When students who have worked or are looking to work were asked about the effect of the pandemic on their income, 34% said it had a major impact – up from 25% who said the same last November.
There were 20% who said it has had a moderate impact, down from 21%, and an unchanged 18% who think it has had a slight impact.
A further 23% now believe it has had no impact, down from 26% in November.
Meanwhile, a weighted sample that excluded students who already had a job found more than half (54%) were not confident of being able to get a summer job.
NUS Scotland is now calling for a “student summer payment” to help struggling students during the three-month break in any financial support.
NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly said: “Coronavirus has caused untold disruption to students up and down the country, to our studies, our finances and our everyday lives.
“Today’s figures are alarming and show that many are barely able to feed themselves and pay for basic bills.
“As the summer approaches, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb of student deprivation.
“Many students have already lost crucial part-time jobs with no guarantee that such work will be available again soon, the end of student support payments is just around the corner, and the vast majority of full-time students are not eligible for Universal Credit.
“The situation is dire, and we must not end up in a position where students are driven out of education and into poverty.
“That’s why NUS Scotland has launched a petition, calling on the Scottish Government to urgently intervene and make bursary support available to all students through a student summer payment.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We know that the impact of the pandemic on students has been significant, with many facing resulting financial difficulties.
“Earlier this year, we committed an additional £25 million to help alleviate the financial burden and stress facing our students.
“We are considering what further support we can give students over the summer and will outline details in due course.”