Cost of Living Crisis: The impact on education

The cost of living crisis is affecting people across the country. As prices soar and inflation remains unstable, the ongoing crisis is impacting students, schools and universities dramatically.

Cost of Living for students, schools and universities

University students are facing a bleak financial picture. The ONS’s Student Cost of Living Insights highlight 92% of university students reported the cost of living rising in comparison to the year prior. 58% of students said their loans don’t cover living costs, with 65% cutting back on food spending or other essentials.

These worrisome figures have a knock-on effect on prospective students. According to UCAS, 66% of applicants are worried about the cost of living at university, compared to 53% last year. Three out of four students have concerns about starting university, and 73% said these concerns are financial.

Elsewhere, schools are witnessing the impact of the cost of living on their students. NFER’s survey indicates 84% of teachers and senior leaders report cost of living pressures and more students requiring additional support. The picture is worse for schools with a high proportion of students from under-resourced backgrounds.

How does the Cost of Living affect the path to university?

At The Access Project, our in-school mentors frequently voice concerns about the impact that cost of living and financial pressures are having on students. As experts in preparing students for university, we provide mentoring to students to help them choose the best university pathway for themselves, addressing and helping to remove barriers that risk preventing students from realising their ambitions. Financial pressures have always affected students from under-resourced backgrounds, but the exceptionally challenging circumstances of the cost of living crisis requires further understanding to support our students effectively.

We’re launching a new research project investigating the link between the current cost of living crisis and university choices. Our aim is to understand if and how increased financial pressures faced by The Access Project students are affecting the decisions they make in their journey to higher education. We will publish our progress with this research in a series of blog posts.

As a student-centred organisation, we’re putting student voice at the front of this research. We are proud to work with two student co-researchers on this project, who will assist in data collection, analysis and write-up of the final report, of which they will be co-authors. Additionally, we are conducting a focus group session with our Year 12 students, and we will be speaking directly to our in-school mentors who support thousands of students across England to draw on their expertise and hear about the variety of experiences across different regions.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on our social channels to be the first to read about our new research.

ONS. (2023). Cost of living and higher education students, England: 30 January to 13 February 2023. ONS. 

Richards, J. (2023). The Influence of Cost of Living on Student Decision Making. UCAS. 

NEFR. (2023). Cost of living crisis: Impact on schools. National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). 

Subscribe to our newsletter