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Working-class students turning to loan sharks as universities charge hidden fees, National Union of Students says

Working-class students are being forced to turn to loan sharks after being confronted with a series of “hidden costs” when they arrive at university, the National Union of Students (NUS) has warned.

Cash-strapped students are being asked to fork out hundreds of pounds extra a year for compulsory course materials and trips they have not budgeted for amid a lack of transparency across the sector.

Universities and colleges should cover these mandatory costs and be upfront with prospective students about all the fees for resources and activities to ensure working-class students’ ability to study and wellbeing is not damaged, according to an NUS briefing shared with The Independent.


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Shakira Martin, NUS president, says working-class students are having to take on multiple jobs at a time to fund their education – and they are being forced to turn to sex work, payday loans and loan sharks.

It is having a detrimental effect on their grades as well as their mental health, resulting in a number of them dropping out, Ms Martin told The Independent.

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South Korean policemen detain a student demonstrator during a protest against South Korean President Park Geun-Hye

EPA

2/34

South Korean policemen detain student protestors during a protest against South Korean President Park Geun-Hye outside the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea.
The protesters demanded that the parliament takes steps to impeach President Park Geun-Hye

EPA

3/34

Filipino demonstrators face off with anti-riot police during a protest near the US Embassy in Manila, Philippine

EPA

4/34

Hundreds of protesters including Indigenous People, students and militant groups marched towards the US Embassy to protest against the presence of US military troops and condemning the violent dispersal which left at least forty people hurt including twenty police officers and three people who were run over by a police van

EPA


5/34

A federal judge in Mexico has ordered that a once-fugitive police chief be held on charges of kidnapping in the disappearance of 43 students

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A man holds up a photograph of a missing student with a caption reading ‘We are missing 43,’ during a meeting marking the 25-month anniversary of the disappearances of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero, in Mexico City.
A federal judge in Mexico has ordered that a once-fugitive police chief be held on charges of kidnapping in the disappearance of 43 students

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Miguel Perez, an intern student from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, puts away his cell phone before walking into the operating room at the Dr. Isaac Gonzalez MartÌnez Oncological Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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8/34

Fewer EU students have applied to start university courses in the UK next autumn.
There was a 9% fall in the numbers who had applied for courses, according to admissions service UCAS.

PA wire


9/34

University students protest against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela.
Masses of protesters jammed the streets of Venezuela’s capital on the heels of a move by congress to open a political trial against Maduro, whose allies have blocked moves for a recall election

AP

10/34

University students protest against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela

AP

11/34

Thousands, most of them high school students, march during a demonstration in Madrid, Spain, on a one day strike to protest about the country’s education law that increases the number of annual exams

AP

12/34

Students gather on the west mall to confront the Young Conservatives of Texas student organization over a controversial bake sale on The University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas.
The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at the University of Texas-Austin sparked the protest with an affirmative action bake sale. The club encouraged students to buy a cookie and talk about the disastrous policy that is affirmative action


13/34

Donald Parish Jr, right, confronts Electrical and Computer Engineering senior Dewayne Perry over a controversial bake sale on The University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas.
The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at the University of Texas-Austin sparked the protest with an affirmative action bake sale. The club encouraged students to buy a cookie and talk about the disastrous policy that is affirmative action

AP

14/34

Brigham Young University announced that students who report sexual assault will no longer be investigated for possible violations of the Mormon-owned school’s strict honor code that bans such things as alcohol use

AP

15/34

Students of secondary education march to protest against the final examinations and LOMCE (The Improvement Quality Education Law) law, after a call by trade unions, in Murcia, Spain

EPA

16/34

South African police have used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of protesters who had marched to the parliament building to call for free university education, where the finance minister was giving a budget speech

AP


17/34

Police break up student protests outside the parliament in Cape Town, South Africa

Reuters

18/34

South African Policemen fire rubber bullets at student protestors in Cape Town, South Africa

AP

19/34

A student protestor is hit by a rubber bullet in Cape Town, South Africa

AP

20/34

An injured student is helped by colleagues during protest outside the parliament during South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s medium term budget speech in Cape Town, South Africa

Reuters


21/34

Plaintiffs and bereaved families of elementary school students killed in the tsunami that followed a major earthquake in northeastern Japan in 2011, show banners that say ‘victory in a suit filed with the Sendai District Court’ in Sendai.
A Japanese court ordered municipalities to pay $13.7 million dollars to families of school children who were swept away to their deaths by the 2011 tsunami

Getty

22/34

A group of student at Ewha Womans University calls for a thorough investigation into those involved in years of engagement with state affairs backstage by Choi Soon-sil, a personal confidante of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, at the school’s front gate in Seoul, South Korea

EPA

23/34

Students raise placards during a strike action called by the student union, in Madrid against university entry exams

Getty

24/34

Libyans throw a newly graduated student into a fountain as they celebrate during the graduation ceremony for students from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Al-Arab University in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi

Getty


25/34

Libyans celebrate as they attend the graduation ceremony for students from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Al-Arab University in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi

Getty

26/34

Libyans celebrate as they attend the graduation ceremony for students from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Al-Arab University in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi

Getty

27/34

Thousands of Thai Catholic students take part in mourning tributes and in singing the Thai Royal Anthem to honour late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Saint Dominic School in Bangkok, Thailand

EPA

28/34

Students of Silpakorn University paint portraits of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the university campus in Bangkok

Getty


29/34

A student of Silpakorn University paints a portrait of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the university campus in Bangkok

Getty

30/34

St Andrews University students take part in a foam fight known as Raisin Monday in the Lower College Lawn behind St Salvator’s Quadrangle following the Raisin Weekend

PA wire

31/34

St Andrews University students take part in a foam fight known as Raisin Monday in the Lower College Lawn behind St Salvator’s Quadrangle following the Raisin Weekend, an annual tradition where student ‘parents’ inflict tasks on the unfortunate first-years they have adopted as ‘children’ as part of a mentoring scheme

PA wire

32/34

Students at the Cuba’s National Ballet School (ENB) in Havana, Cuba

Reuters


33/34

Students at the Cuba’s National Ballet School (ENB) take part in a practice in Havana, Cuba

Reuters

34/34

Students at the Cuba’s National Ballet School (ENB) wait in line to enter a classroom in Havana, Cuba

Reuters

Official figures released earlier this month revealed that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to give up their university courses within 12 months than their more advantaged peers.

In some universities, more than a fifth of young students from the most disadvantaged social backgrounds dropped out in their first year, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data shows.

A higher proportion of disadvantaged students now attend university and institutions need to offer a higher level of support to ensure these young people complete their studies and succeed, experts say.

Ms Martin said: “It’s a scandal that students pay so much to get into education, only to arrive and find they have to fork out more and more cash in order to simply take part in core course activities.

“Institutions should do everything they can to ensure that every working-class student that walks through the door has the support not only to get in but to get on in education.” 

The new NUS briefing has been released to encourage student unions across the UK to campaign for support funds from universities to cover these unexpected costs. It comes just days after education ministers called on top universities to pay for the accommodation and equipment for children in care.

Steph Hayle, community and wellbeing officer at York University Students’ Union, had to work three jobs in one term when she arrived at university as her loan failed to cover all the costs she faced. She did not have time to study or socialise until third year, when she had saved up enough to cut down to two jobs.

She told The Independent: “Hidden course costs are a massive concern, especially when people are budgeting in advance based on their rent and food and not realising this is going to happen.”

Students have been caught off guard by mandatory trips and travel costs, she said, and nursing students were having to fork out more than £1,000 a year on laundry costs for their uniforms on placements.

Ms Hayle added: “These costs are not promoted. It is not really mentioned in any of the literature that gets sent out to you. I don’t think it is something that institutions are necessarily proud to advertise.

“You have the £9,250 course cost and nobody wants to explain that it is actually going to cost you a lot more than that. It is really shocking for a lot of students to come in and encounter these costs.

Megan Hatfield, academic affairs officer at Aberystwyth University Students’ Union, said unaware first-year students at the university have been asked to pay hundreds of pounds for art materials and trips abroad.

But many students have already spent most of their loan on accommodation and have not budgeted for these extras, she said. “They are struggling to pay for food and they are concerned that if they are not able to pay these costs then is it going to impact on their degree.”

And staff at the students union have noticed a rise in the proportion of students struggling with money. “Having these costs on top of that isn’t helping,” Ms Hatfield added.

The financial pressure on working-class students has increased since the removal of maintenance grants as more young people are struggling to cover living costs on their loan alone, the NUS says.

The union is calling for the grants to be reinstated as part of the government’s post-18 funding review, which is due to report later this year, and universities across the UK are calling for the same move.

Ms Martin believes the situation will get worse for poorer students if the grant is not brought back and if funding across the sector is not improved. “It would be a huge opportunity lost and fundamentally it is working-class students that will be most at risk – and that is something that angers me.”


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A Universities UK spokesperson said: “Universities remain committed to ensuring all students succeed in every aspect of university life, regardless of their background.”

They added: “It is important institutions are transparent when detailing the additional costs of attending university, and that they continue to offer a range of emotional and financial support to students.

“We’d encourage students under financial pressure to contact student support services if they need help – however, greater government support would help to alleviate student concerns with living costs.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There is a record rate of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds now going to university and we expect universities to provide students with information about the total course cost – this includes any extra costs students are likely to incur.

“Students from the lowest-income households who started their courses this year have access to the largest ever amounts of cash-in-hand support for their living costs.

“The education secretary has been clear that he wants universities to focus on the successful participation of disadvantaged groups, and higher education institutions are spending £860m this academic year on measures to improve access and outcomes for students from underrepresented groups.”


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