When Blackbullion commissioned its latest report, Money and mental health: how financial wellbeing impacts students, we expected to unpick some uncomfortable truths… Half of students (48%) have considered dropping out of university, or deferring a year, due to the financial fall-out of Covid-19? I’d have guessed close to that. And 75% of students surveyed worrying about finances? Not far off my projection.
But there were some emerging trends we hadn’t anticipated fully…
The finance gender gap is already in play
An emerging narrative we identified is that, in 2021, female students’ relationship to money differs significantly to their male counterparts. The gap starts when deciding whether to go to university: 86% of female students factored the cost of living into their decision, compared to 78% of males.
What’s more, the female students surveyed have a monthly budget of £562, compared to £622 for male students.
- 66% of female students don’t believe they could complete their degree without the additional financial help currently received outside of the loans and grants system
- … this compares to 51% of male students
A huge lack of confidence around money speaks to an acute need to address financial education for women – and we can’t start soon enough.
The bank of mum and dad still rules
The gap between financial backgrounds is widening, too. Where students had previously considered dropping out, or deferring a year due to money constraints, 44% received financial support from their parent(s)/guardian(s), meaning they could stay on at university or avoid deferring their studies.
- 62% of respondents said they would turn to their parent(s)/guardian(s) for advice and support if they had financial difficulties
For us, this reliance on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ suggests university inclusion strategies will be worryingly impacted over the longer-term.
Financial anxiety impacts all areas of mental health
Looking at the extent to which money worries engulf all elements of student wellbeing is eye-watering – even for me: 67% of students concerned about their financial situation feel their mental health has been negatively affected.
Once more, female students are far more exposed to the impact of money on financial wellbeing:
- 78% of female students worry about finances, compared to 66% of male students
And where students identify with finances negatively impacting mental health:
- 57% of female students regularly experience anxiety, compared to 30% of males
- 66% of female students found financial worries regularly trigger stress; 43% of male students were similarly affected
We know Covid-19’s impact goes far beyond the evident financial pressures. It’s swallowing up the entire student experience, with students’ mental health at risk.
A huge lack of confidence around money speaks to an acute need to address financial education for women
The question is, where do we go from here? For us, it’s about working closely with universities to take a holistic view of how we can better support students’ financial wellbeing. We want to help them develop long-term strategies that build financial wellbeing into the tripod of mental and physical health.
What’s clear is that, despite the challenges, young people have the tenacity and resilience to stick to the course, to create a better future for themselves and their communities. And this is where the opportunity lies for the future of universities.