The first step towards supporting students with finances is to encourage them to speak up

Institutions can help students confront and overcome obstacles to their academic success by breaking down societal taboos, providing counselling services and cultivating peer support networks

Rashmi Yogesh Pai's avatar
19 Feb 2024
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A holistic approach to student support
4 minute read
Student support

Rising tuition, housing and essentials costs put pressure on students who are already prone to the negative efects of financial issues. These costs can lead to financial strain, insecurity and mental health issues, all of which can impede academic performance and achievement. Institutions need to offer support by creating safe spaces where students can openly discuss their financial concerns.

Eradicate stigma

The fear of being criticised often causes students to remain silent about their financial struggles. Establishing secure environments requires removing this stigma and cultivating a culture that recognises and celebrates a wide spectrum of student experiences. Institutions must actively combat judgement, advocate for empathy and encourage understanding to build an environment that is conducive to open communication. They can achieve this by educating students and staff through various programmes, such as workshops and seminars, and encouraging them to watch TED Talks. 

Support mental health

Financial difficulties create hurdles, enormous stress and anxiety. Financial counselling and mental health support should be part of every educational institution’s student care system. Offering students spaces where they can openly discuss their financial concerns with experienced professionals allows colleges to address issues and support students emotionally.

Build peer support networks

Many students find solace in sharing their experiences with peers facing similar issues. Creating peer support networks inside the college community allows students to connect with others who understand their problems. The power of peer support stems from its ability to generate a sense of community and understanding that reduces the isolation typically associated with financial difficulties.

University staff should be responsible for creating these peer support networks. At Manipal Academy of Higher Education, for example, we create peer support clubs in which 10-12 students come together with the help of a designated faculty coordinator and the student affairs department. In these clubs, the students voluntarily take up peer support roles and discuss matters related to academics, financial difficulties and relationship issues. These networks provide safe spaces for honest interactions, allowing students to share coping strategies, resources and guidance, and they are monitored by a student welfare committee.

In cases where expert intervention is needed, peer support club members can report matters to the concerned faculty coordinator who can then pass issues on to a counsellor or a financial adviser for further advice. It is a good idea to implement an anonymised process for those who do not want their identities known.

It’s important to provide physical spaces where students can discreetly access information and interact with support services. These are good places to encourage peer-to-peer storytelling to enable students to learn strategies from one another on how to confront financial challenges.

Implement financial literacy initiatives

To prepare students to manage their funds successfully, educational institutions should implement comprehensive financial literacy programmes in the form of online life skills courses or in-person guest talks, workshops and seminars. Topics of study should include budgeting, debt management and analysis of expenses to provide students with the information and skills they need to navigate the complex world of finance. These sessions can also offer students opportunities to ask questions and gain practical ideas on how to improve their financial situations.

Engage with community organisations

It is critical for universities to interact with local community organisations and resources to enhance the support they provide students. Establishing agreements with local food banks, affordable housing programmes and healthcare providers facilitates the provision of additional resources, reducing financial pressures.

Addressing the issues students face as a result of the cost-of-living crisis requires a comprehensive plan that goes beyond traditional academic support. Creating safe spaces where students can openly share financial challenges is a critical step towards establishing a compassionate and inclusive school environment.

Institutions can help students confront and overcome obstacles to their academic success by breaking down societal taboos, providing counselling services, cultivating peer support networks, advocating for financial literacy and engaging with community resources. Universities act as strong pillars of support for students during these difficult times. In doing this, they can build resilience among students, helping them to improve their situations and become assets to the university.

Rashmi Yogesh Pai is the deputy director of student affairs and an associate professor in the department of commerce at Manipal Academy of Higher Education.

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For more advice and resources on this topic, go to our Spotlight collection Helping students through the cost-of-living crisis.


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