Rising University Accommodation Prices Exceed Financial Support From Durham Grant – Palatinate

By Elizabeth McBride and Waseem Mohamed

As the cost of living and housing prices in Durham have risen steadily over the past ten years, the University’s main financial support program has lost its value.

In 2012/2013 the Durham Grant paid 35% of the rent for a standard room with catering for one year, but for 2021/2022 it dropped to 20% of the annual rent for a standard room with catering.

While the University raises housing prices in line with the RPI (the retail price index), the Durham Grant program does not. Financial eligibility for the maximum award – a combined household income of less than £25,000 – has also not changed over the past decade despite inflation.

In 2017/18 Durham capped the total financial support a student can receive at £2,000. This made the grant redundant for students who already receive a scholarship under the Sustained Progression Scheme, which seeks to work with underrepresented groups to encourage them to apply to Durham and other universities.

Durham recently announced that it would undertake a ‘review’ of the money awarded by the Durham Bursary Scheme in response to concerns from Durham Students’ Union about rising accommodation costs.

Declan Merrington, Durham Students’ Union postgraduate academic officer, expressed concern over rising costs after accommodation prices rose again earlier this year saying: ‘I had the fortunate to have received a generous scholarship which took the form of money on my accommodation in my first year. The following year, after the removal of the scholarship for sustained progression from my cohort. (…) Without the scholarship, I would not have been to Durham.

He went on to explain that “not being able to attend university due to high costs would have undermined any point in specifically choosing Durham”.

In addition, the Student Support Fund program – which offers financial aid to students who find themselves in unexpected difficulty – has been called “tedious and embarrassing” by the Working Class Students Association of Durham ( WCSA), who questioned how clearly the program was marked. to students.

In terms of applicants, the 2019/2020 academic year saw the highest number of SSF applications with 163 students, while the 2020/2021 year saw the lowest number with 101.

However, in 2020/2021 the scheme was significantly reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has resulted in the majority of students returning home and setting up a temporary Covid-19 recovery fund to specifically support students in financial difficulty due to the pandemic. 400 students received scholarships worth £500 and 43 graduates received £1,000 for career development.

A representative from WCSA Durham said “the best course of action would be for freshman colleges to really push the SSF and de-stigmatize the conversation about students in need of financial aid.”

A Durham University spokesperson said Palatinate“We recognize that the cost of living, especially energy and food, is rising rapidly, but we have kept tuition fee increases for 2022/2023 significantly below the price index inflation rate. retail (RPI).

“In the case of fully serviced colleges, the fee also provides students with 21 hot meals per week – at a cost of £83 per week for this service for 2022/2023.

“If students are struggling financially, they can access a number of support systems.

“These include the Durham Scholarship, which is available for home-based undergraduate students from low-income families, and an accommodation scholarship available for first-year students from low-income families. .”

Picture – Thomas Tomlinson

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