“The revaluation of scholarships is totally inadequate,” condemns Unef

17:53, 22 August 2022

In its 18th survey on the cost of living, published on August 15, the National Union of Students of France (UNEF) warns of student insecurity. According to the data of the union organization, the cost of living of students is increasing by 6.47 percent, while inflation is 6.1 percent. In total, this increase represents a necessary additional budget of 428.22 euros for the year, i.e. 35.7 euros more per month. Faced with the situation, the revaluation of scholarships by 4%, which was announced at the beginning of July by Sylvie Retailleau, Minister of Higher Education and Research, “is completely insufficient”, condemns Imane Ouelhadj, president of Unef.

What are the conclusions of this study about the cost of student living?
In this study, we realize that we have a 6.47% increase in the cost of living for students over inflation, which is 6.1% for the rest of society. This difference is noticeable. As students, our main expenses are the costs of the basic necessities of life. Our budget is 55% rent, so when there is a fairly significant increase in rent, we have to forego other expenses such as food, which has also increased by 6% this year. For students, the package of pasta for one year has been increased by 15%. All of this has a significant impact on our budgets, and therefore on our living and study conditions.

Food distribution associations are always full

How are students coping with 6.7% food inflation?
It’s been a few years, especially with the health crisis, that students have had to find D systems to feed themselves. Students still use food distribution to get by. Secours Populaire, Restos du Coeur… Associations that set up food distribution are always full. It has become something almost normal to go to the food distribution to be able to eat because when you go to the supermarket you will come out with very few foods, especially poor quality ones, because students go for cheaper products such as pasta or canned goods, which do not allow for a very varied diet. Buying vegetables and fruits has become a luxury for students.

Sylvie Retailleau, Minister of Higher Education and Research, announced in early July that scholarships would be increased by 4%. Do you think this is enough compared to inflation?
This revaluation is completely insufficient. On the one hand, we have an increase in the cost of living for students by 6.47%, and on the other, a revaluation of scholarships to 4% according to a system that was already out of breath. This means almost nothing to a student. 73% of students are excluded from the scholarship system. Among the 27% concerned about the revaluation, the level most given to students is “0 bis”, the smallest amount of the grant, which is therefore equivalent to an increase of four euros per month and per student. Last year the scholarship was 104 euros, this year it is 108 euros. This is not what will make it possible to offset the rise in the cost of living.

We are asking for an increase of 100 euros per month and per step to cope with the rising cost of living.

What are you asking the government to do to help students?
We have two requests regarding student insecurity. We asked the Minister of Higher Education to carry out a scholarship reform at the beginning of the school year, which can alleviate the current emergency situation. We are asking for an increase of 100 euros per month and per step to cope with the rising cost of living. But we don’t want to stop there because we know that with this increase of 100 euros per month, students will continue to be in a situation of extreme insecurity. Therefore, we are also looking for quick consultations on the issue of stock market reform, which is structural.

Unef wants the creation of a universal allowance for autonomy that is calculated on the income of students, and no longer on the income of parents, as is currently the case. At 18, you are an adult, but you are not a social worker because you still depend on your parents’ income. We have almost no right to social assistance, and the costs of education are increasing. The Universal Autonomy Scholarship would allow all students who wish to benefit from it. It would be calculated on the poverty line, which this year amounts to 1,102 euros. This would allow students to study in better conditions. Today, every second student is in a situation of student employment, and among them every second is in a situation of academic failure. This shows that subsistence during studies is not a solution for student employment.

Read also: Big resignation: when students reorient themselves and leave big schools

In this study, you specifically point to the five-year mandate of Emmanuel Macron, who, in your opinion, invested the least in the past fifteen years.
Since the beginning of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year mandate, we have seen a drop in investments per student per year of 35 euros. This can be explained by several things, both the increase in the number of students entering higher education and the increase in the number of scholarship recipients, which is almost minimal. With the massification of higher education, more and more working-class and middle-class students have access to education, but they are not helped financially, so they are more likely to drop out. On the other hand, there have been losses on welfare, especially APL, which has fallen significantly for students.

Only 6% of students benefit from accommodation in Crous residences

You mentioned the APL issue. What about student accommodation today?
There is an extreme shortage of student accommodation. Only 6% of students benefit from accommodation in Crous residences. At the beginning of his five-year mandate, Emmanuel Macron announced the development of a plan for 60,000 housing units for students, except that five years later we are at 10,000 built housing units. This clearly shows that today there is a need to engage the upper lever in the matter of building student accommodation. Moreover, it is very difficult to find something that would return in a peaceful way for the already existing housing facilities, with the increase in rents, but also the lack of housing space in the private sector. There is a shortage of housing with small areas in big cities.

Do you have to meet with the government soon?
The government has announced that it wants to consult on scholarship reform at the beginning of the school year. We are on standby with other student organizations and professional unions.

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