Criminal exploitation and financial hardship- the impact of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis on college students

Laura McHugh
Laura McHugh

Published: July 10th, 2023

7 min read

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Students has recently sought to highlight the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on students in further education (FE), in particular the unique difficulties that college students face (as opposed to say, for example, their higher education (HE) counterparts). The report, published July 2023, emphasises the immediate and long-term consequences that threaten FE students and the knock-on impact this is having on their ability to complete studies. Below is a summary of the report's main findings.

An insight into life as a current FE student

The report makes in very clear that the cost-of-living crisis has impacted FE students in a significant, and potentially very detrimental, way. The report found that college studies are experiencing problems with transport costs, a detrimental impact on mental health, a struggle to prioritise their courseload, and the juggling of jobs alongside their studies to make ends meet. Whilst this may seem similar to HE students, those in FE differ in that a high percentage of students have increased their working hours to support not just themselves, but also their families. Several students, as young as 16 years old, confirmed that such increased hours are having a knock on effect on their ability to attend classes and meet deadlines.

Cases of extreme student poverty have also seen an unprecedented rise. A number of colleges have reported that students are wearing the same clothes every day for extended periods of time, staying in college for all their meals, and attending the premises to be warm on days even when they have no classes.

Safeguarding issues

Amongst the specific experiences that are impacting college students due to the current financial pressures is a significant rise in reports of family tensions and domestic abuse - with the number of 'at risk' learners greater than ever.

Some colleges have even noted an increase in students who are falling victim to sexual exploitation and involvement in criminal gangs, with extreme financial destitution drawing vulnerable students to break the law. Clearly this is a worrying state of affairs and one that even the most well equipped of colleges may seek external support on, whether that be from government agencies and /or social care organisations.

The long-term consequences

The report suggests that whilst there is a danger that the impact of the ongoing crisis on young people's mental health can sometimes go unnoticed, evidence does show that there has been a spike in the number of students who are opening up to college staff when it comes to their wellbeing. According to the report the biggest increase of disclosed mental health difficulties is amongst 16-18-year-olds, with 95% of colleges reporting a significant increase within this cohort.

Many students are prioritising the need to obtain gainful employment out of necessity, rather than progressing with college. Various concerns have been raised that those who leave education often do so to take up 'precarious, insecure roles'. The long-term consequence of this is that those who might benefit most from further education and training are now less likely to fulfil their potential due to circumstances arising from the cost-of-living crisis.

Where do we go from here?

This article provides an overview of some of the salient points outlined in the APPG report, from which it is clear that a worrying number of FE students find themselves in a precarious position. The report also outlines recommendations for an immediate spending commitment to support students who have been placed in significant financial hardship, along with longer-term changes that are needed for both current and prospective students.

For the government, their recommendations include:

  • Provide additional funding support for further education;

  • Review the mandated eligibility criteria for bursary funds;

  • Consider the case for extending free school meal eligibility;

  • Introduce free or subsidised travel;

  • Increase the apprenticeship minimum wage; and

  • Take steps to ensure further education providers receive the appropriate and timely data to establish bursary needs.

  • For further education providers:

  • Undertake research patters of paid employment by college students;

  • Assess the mental health impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the student body; and

  • Recognise the role of student voice.

We appreciate how difficult the situation can be for colleges and if we can be of any assistance at all please do not hesitate to contact us.

For further information please contact Laura McHugh

How can we help?

Complete the form opposite, let us know a few details, and one of our team will get back to you shortly. Or you can call us or request a callback.

0800 689 3206 - Monday - Friday: 09:00 - 17:00

Request a call back

By submitting your enquiry you agree that Forbes can contact you.

© 2024 Forbes Solicitors is the trading name of Forbes Solicitors LLP Offices in Preston, Manchester, Salford, Blackburn, Blackpool, London and Leeds UK Main Office: Rutherford House, 4 Wellington Street (St Johns), Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 8DD • Vat No: 174 394 344 Forbes Solicitors is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA No. 816356). Details of the SRA’s Standards and Regulations can be found here.

This website has implemented reCAPTCHA v3 and your use of reCAPTCHA v3 is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.