Coronavirus continues to have an impact on the funding of about two-thirds of Scots students, according to a new survey.
The NUS Scotland study found 64% of respondents had their income hit by the pandemic, with about one in four seeing hours reduced and about one in 10 losing their job.
It comes as 60 student leaders have written to the First Minister calling for increased hardship and digital funding, while also pressing for compensation on rent and tuition fees.
Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, said: “These results highlight how widespread financial struggles are amongst the student body – the Scottish Government must intervene and offer urgent support to students facing hardship.
“While improvements to cost-of-living support introduced by the Scottish Government are welcome, they do not go far enough and need to be built on – now more than ever due to the economic devastation being caused by Covid-19.
“Students are being expected to pay rent for accommodation they can’t use, while some are relying on foodbanks and increased debt just to make ends meet.
“Student leaders from across Scotland have written to the First Minister seeking urgent financial support from the Scottish Government and universities to ensure no student is left to struggle financially and that every university has a no-detriment policy in place so that no student is academically disadvantaged.”
The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase three took place in November and involved 653 students from Scotland.
It built upon the previous research issued by NUS in April and September.
Student concern over managing financially during the outbreak continues to be high, with 73% concerned in some way.
Two in five students continue to say they have sought financial assistance from family members and one in three have used savings.
A further one in five say they have used credit cards to help them out, while 14% and 12% respectively have used food banks and institutional hardship funds.
The proportion of students in part-time employment has dropped to a fifth compared with about a third in July.
Also the number of those who do not work at all has jumped – 58% compared with 27% in the same period.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart MSP said: “It is shameful that Scottish students are finding themselves on the breadline.
“The pandemic has clearly left many of them in a very vulnerable position, and that has not been helped by delayed and disjointed decision making by the Scottish Government.
“From the off, it has seemed like this group have been an afterthought with the Scottish Government, and that has only been underlined by the fact that there is still no clear guidance on how they should plan when and where they study this term. They urgently need this information to plan.
“The Scottish Government urgently need to up their game, ensure rent rebates are available for those who need it and bulk up the Student Hardship Funds.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We fully appreciate that the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic have been financially tough on many groups, including our students, and that’s why we are continuing to look urgently – working with institutions, unions and student representatives – at various issues surrounding the return of students to their studies, accommodation and campuses next term, including financial help.
“We have already introduced notice to leave periods for students in purpose-built student accommodation and we are aware many students are taking advantage of the provision to withdraw from leases for accommodation they are not using this month and next.
“The Scottish Government made an additional £5 million available to students last month, who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Students across Scotland can apply to their college or university’s Discretionary Fund for help if they are struggling to meet accommodation and other costs.
“This extra funding means that since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has provided £15 million in additional support for students. This is on top of the usual Further Education and Higher Education Discretionary Funds that are paid out each year.”
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