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The student cost of living crisis: easy routes forward for Students' Unions

Features

Student Engagement Expert

London

16 Aug 2022

The student cost of living crisis: easy routes forward for Students' Unions

It’s impossible to escape the cost of living crisis right now - whether in the news or the shops. So, you’ll likely be aware the crisis, and its impact, will worsen through autumn and winter 2022. 

COVID-19 already presented students with challenges accessing technology, and higher education, and the cost of living crisis is yet another barrier all students’ are facing. Collectively, students are already feeling the pinch and 96% are cutting back on spending (NUS).

Those from low socioeconomic backgrounds will be especially impacted; Wonkhe reported students entitled to the maximum student finance will be £2,000 worse off this autumn, with only £29.30 a week to live off after accommodation deductions (NUS).

But financial worries are impacting the wellbeing of the student population - and NUS reported 92% of students' mental health has been directly affected. 

At native, we believe every student deserves to have an amazing time at University. But right now, the student cost of living crisis is threatening the student experience.

So, what can we do? At SU22 Communities of Practice, Matt Wall, Head of Partnerships at native hosted a roundtable discussion with a number of Students’ Unions. Together they mapped out the ways in which they can support students’ through the cost of living crisis and mitigate possible negative effects on students' wellbeing, and their university experience. Here are the headlines:

Funding: Unlock commercial revenue

Much of Students’ Unions budget is already allocated - or even cut, in some cases. Commercial income is also threatened as students plan to cut back on their spending. So how can Students’ Unions boost vital funds for welfare services, to keep up with increasing student demand? Campus media and advertising. 

In the UK, £7 billion is spent on youth advertising annually, yet no large media agency has ever transacted directly with an SU. At native, we’re transforming the student advertising landscape, so SU’s can compete with traditional publishers and redirect market-leading brands' advertising spend onto campus. To date, native has helped 50+ Students’ Unions guarantee and grow their advertising revenue stream.

Education: Students

Educating students on the crisis is two-fold. Firstly, ensuring your members are aware of how the crisis came about, and are updated on its trajectory. Make sure they know they’re not alone - and reassure them it's nothing they’ve brought upon themselves. Signposting easy to digest but reliable news sources is a great starting point. If armed with more resources, why not connect and educate students where they spend 7.4 hours a day - on their mobile phones, often scrolling social media. 

Secondly, educating students on how to make their money go further can help make ends meet. At native, we’ve partnered with influencers on a number of student-centric IRL, digital and virtual events to do just that. From “Budget like a boss” hosted by the founder of 'This Girl Talks Money' Ellie Austin Williams to “Eat Well on a Student Budget” lead by the founder of 'The Good Bite', Niall Kirkland, we want to empower students with the knowledge to help manage their own finances.

Messaging: A refreshed comms strategy

How many students know it’s more cost effective to shop, drink and eat in their Students’ Union than in the local town or city? The answer is likely less than you’d think. While money is on students’ minds, look to rebrand your SU in some simple ways, and lead with the value members can get by shopping ‘local’ on campus. Consider leveraged pricing for non members to ensure every purchase reflects you are a member focussed organisation.

Delivery: Mobilise a cross functional working party

While it’s important not to take eyes off Students’ Unions long-term vision and goals, it’s a fine balancing act, to support each and every student with the right level of support here and now. Mobilise a cross functional working group of students and SU staff, to ideate, plan and execute on a campaign of activity to ensure students are aware of, and have access to, support and money-saving initiatives. 

Action: Give your members a voice

SUs are great at giving students’ the tools and platforms to speak up for the causes they believe in. The cost of living crisis should be no different. Encourage students to register to vote. Mobilise SU collectives, and mobilise students to make MPs aware of the impact the cost of living crisis is having on students. Be bold and speak to the injustices that students are facing.

Want to learn more about our events, designed to educate students around the cost of living crisis? Download our events pack and get in touch.