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How is COVID impacting student finances?

Friday 23 October 2020 Data Insight & Analytics

By Marcus Le Brocq

Student finances have been something of a hot topic in the higher education industry ever since student tuition fees were raised in 2010. The cost of going to university has really been placed under the microscope, with universities themselves under added pressure to provide value for money to an increasingly expectant population of students. A paradigm shift in attitudes has occurred where there is more focus now than ever before on what students are getting for their money, not least from the students themselves.

The COVID pandemic has ratcheted up the pressure on universities still further. There have been no material reductions in fees as the cost of providing the courses hasn’t drastically altered, with many lectures and seminars having moved to an online environment to mitigate the risks of the virus spreading whilst also providing students with a learning outlet. This has posed challenges to students and their tutors.

Do students feel they are getting value for money?

We recently conducted a survey of 300 UK-based students to assess how they are feeling about returning to university in these COVID times. Among the questions we sought to gain an understanding as to how students felt their finances and overall value for money from their courses were being affected.

60% said that they are concerned about their budget. In isolation, that might not sound like anything new, with the stereotype of students scraping together enough pennies towards the end of term for another night out. Attitudes in that regard, however, have shifted, with average student debt from a three-year course now standing at around £50,000. That’s a significant debt burden to be saddled with, so getting the most from their education is paramount and appropriate budgeting is central to that in order to cover course necessities.

Paying off that debt is also brought into view for students, with 55% of respondents stating that they are concerned about finding work upon completion of their studies. With the labour market being hit by COVID this is a very real concern for students. The ultimate aim of obtaining a degree is to improve employment prospects, but with that becoming an area of concern, there is likely to be a knock-on effect for some as regards attending university in the first place. At this moment, however, only 12% of students feel that COVID makes it less likely that they will complete their course.

Overall, 47% of students feel that they are not getting value for money from their education. 29% of respondents feel that they are getting value for money, with 24% not having an opinion either way.

Changing perceptions

What can universities do address this perception amongst students? Value for money is something of an intangible and can only really be quantified by the individual, but by improving the student experience, universities can begin to address this issue.

65% of students are concerned about their lectures and seminars being affected, but universities have been very quick in embracing online solutions to deliver their learning programmes. This is something that is actively being used to combat such fears amongst universities, yet the fears remain.

The most effective way for universities to combat such negative perceptions is via clearer communication. COVID has heralded a period of great change across society, with universities no exception. Office workers are working from home now and students are studying from home. Joining the dots between fears over the impact of COVID to their studying, and the reality of the options available, is crucial for universities in managing student expectations and offering value for money to them.

Deploying an all-encompassing student information management system enables universities to keep a track of their students, the disruptions that they are facing at an individual level and to be able to more effectively communicate with them around any short, medium- and long-term changes that are occurring. This connects universities, students and their courses more closely, providing greater clarity and a greater sense of value for money.

For more information on how OSIRIS can help your university, please click here.

Student finances have been something of a hot topic in the higher education industry ever since student tuition fees were raised in 2010. The cost of going to university has really been placed under the microscope, with universities themselves under added pressure to provide value for money to an increasingly expectant population of students. A paradigm shift in attitudes has occurred where there is more focus now than ever before on what students are getting for their money, not least from the students themselves.

How is COVID impacting student finances?