The Real Cost of Being a Uni Student

We’ve all heard of the typical “poor” uni student, they usually live off of 2 minute noodles, complain about not having any money but still manage to go out every weekend. This stereotype of university students is seen as a rite of passage, and is simply expected when undertaking study. But let’s talk about the 1 in 7 students who go without food on a regular basis because they can’t afford it, the 33% of students who have expenses that exceed their estimated income – the students at university who live below the poverty line.

The romanticisation and general acceptance of poverty amongst university students is dangerous and can seriously undermine the very real and confronting issue of poverty and financial distress experienced by a minority of students. Here is a video which recognises the absurdity of the complaints and struggles faced by “poor” uni students.


The Australian University Student Finances Survey is conducted every five years to determine to cost of living challenges facing domestic university students. Some of the key findings from the 2017 research study found that:

  • 1 in 7 students regularly go without food because they can’t afford it
  • One third of students have expenses that exceed their estimated income
  • 58% of undergraduate students are worried about their financial situation
  • 30% of full-time students work more than 20 hours per week
  • 10% of full-time students exceed working more than 30 hours
  • More than 25% of full-time students regularly miss classes because they have to work

These are some of the very real statistics facing very real people, and by normalising the frugal behaviour of uni students distracts from the growing issue of financial hardship faced by a proportion of students. While 10% of students live in conditions which fit into the definition of poverty by the Australian Government, there are still a large proportion of students who struggle financially.

Here is a profile which is used as an example to demonstrate the income and expenses that some students may face.


Fortnightly Budget:

Income: $200 from job at McDonald’s

Rent: $329.50
Electricity, gas: $25
Internet: $10
Phone bill: $50
Food, household items : $40-$60
Myki (Public Transport): $30-$40



In addition to this student having expenses which outweigh their income, they do not receive the youth allowance which is paid by the government. The youth allowance however is nothing substantial. The current rate for a full-time student over the age of 18 who lives out of home amounts to around $31 a day. For some, this is still not enough to make ends meet, but what can we do to help?


Within universities there are a variety of support systems such as food banks, bulk billed healthcare facilities, financial aid, free counselling sessions with professionals as well student services which assist with filling out Centrelink and other government forms. This type of support from universities can assist in relieving the burden of financial strain, and can make life just that little bit easier.



So, the next time you buy your grande vanilla latte from Starbucks and complain that you have to do a Maccas run on the way home from uni in the car that your parents bought you because you can’t afford anything else, maybe just think about the 33% of students who can’t afford to pay their bills and who really, can’t afford it.

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