As approximately one million students in England continue to study online, with no guarantee of when in-person teaching may restart, the NUS has warned that a fifth have been unable to pay rent at some point in the past four months.
The NUS survey of over 5,800 students took place in March and found that 23% had been unable to pay their rent since the beginning of December.
The union warned that housing costs “are overwhelming for many” and could push “them over the brink”. More than a quarter (28%) said they could not pay their household bills in full over the same period.
The union is calling for rent rebates, which would lessen worries for “international students, students of colour and students with a disability”, who are particularly worried about the housing costs, it said.
Students deserve better than to be left to fall through the cracks in support and we urgently need a true student support package to put money back in students’ pockets now
– Larissa Kennedy, NUS national president
Larissa Kennedy, NUS national president, blamed “the exorbitant costs of accommodation [for] pushing [students] to the brink financially”.
“Students are often left to fall prey to landlords and accommodation providers’ predatory practices such as locking them into tenancy contracts up to a year in advance,” Ms Kennedy continued.
The NUS said students that expect to continue studying at university next year had concerns about their ability to pay rent. Of those surveyed, 35% had already signed year-long contracts, and 70% admitted concerns about the cost of housing next year.
The NUS president continued: “Instead of legislating to support students to leave their tenancies early, as they did in Scotland, the government has left students to rely on charitable handouts from universities, hardship funds, and be at the whim of huge, exploitative accommodation companies and private landlords unwilling to offer rent reductions.
“Students deserve better than to be left to fall through the cracks in support and we urgently need a true student support package to put money back in students’ pockets now. Moving forward, we need to see an overhaul of the student funding system, through the reintroduction of maintenance grants that can properly support us, and radical reform of the private rented sector through the Government’s promised Renters’ Reform Bill to ensure this never happens again.”