Financial Hardship: Help is out there

Financial hardship is something that many students will experience during their time at university. While living off a nightly bowl of instant noodles may be seen as a badge of honour, financial hardship is a serious issue that can affect your studies, as well as physical and mental health.

Financial hardship can be a vague term. Does it mean you simply have to stick to a budget and can’t spend willy-nilly? Does it mean that you need to save up for a big spend like a trip to the dentist? Or does it mean that you’re homeless?

Financial hardship is when someone can’t provide for themselves or their dependants in regards to food, accommodation, essential clothing, medical treatment, education or other basic necessities.

With this definition in mind, it’s no surprise that a number of students experience financial hardship throughout their education.

In fact, as a group, students are frequently in need or vulnerable in some respect, whether it’s financial hardship, mental health or something else.

There are many causes of financial hardship; including changes to employment rates, Centrelink changes or changes in the housing market. Coupled with these external factors, students also need to juggle competing priorities such as studies, family commitments and employment.

It can only take one thing to throw off the balance and move you from going well to not coping, be it an illness, car accident or sudden job loss. It can happen to anyone.

Know that if this happens to you, you are not alone.

The ANUSA Student Assistance Unit provides support to all undergraduate students. They can help with issues such as Centrelink questions, accommodation problems, academic advocacy, referral to other services and financial hardship.

There are several levels of assistance offered, from prevention to short term and long-term solutions.

As with many problems, it is often easier to prevent financial hardship in the first place, rather than waiting until the situation is dire. The Student Assistance Unit offers budgeting assistance and workshops throughout the year. Keep up to date on the latest workshops by following ANUSA on social media.

Students requiring immediate support to meet basic needs such as food and hygiene can access student meals such as free breakfast at the Brian Kenyon Student Space and evening meals donated by the ANU Union. ANUSA can also provide toiletry kits and free sanitary products.

You may need this kind of support if you have a tight budget, busy study schedule, an injury preventing you from cooking or other similar circumstances. No application is required, just ask a Student Assistance Officer.

For students requiring a bit more assistance, ANUSA’s Student Assistance Unit has grocery vouchers available. Again, this kind of support is easy to access, just ask a Student Assistance Officer.

Despite the best of planning, things can go wrong, such as an unexpected expense or being left with no income at all. For these situations the Emergency Grant Scheme exists, where students can receive up to $500 in a year, which does not have to be paid back. To access this grant see a Student Assistance Officer for an application form.

Long-term solutions are just as important as prevention and emergency support. ANUSA aims for long-term change by advocating to committees and government on behalf of students.

For individuals, the Student Assistance Unit can help you with long-term solutions by assisting with scholarship and bursaries, helping with Centrelink applications, and referring you to services such as the ANU Careers Centre.