THE BLOG
18/11/2013 07:54 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Rise of Payday Loans on Campus

Cash-strapped. Stingy. Penny-pinching.

Just some of the most common labels pasted onto students. With monikers like these it's no wonder that we have always turned to alternative forms of income to see us through until the end of term. And while working in the Union bar satisfies some, and others turn to more seedy forms of employment, with the majority relying on the Bank of Mum and Dad, the latest way to make it through to the next loan instalment is the short-term loan.

Sometimes known as pay-day lenders, companies now famous, or arguably infamous, like Wonga, Quick Quid and CashCowNow, quickly approve a small loan - usually never more than £1000 - and a short period for it to be repaid, sometimes by the borrower's next pay cheque.

But the speed and ease with which the loans can be approved, often within a matter of minutes through a phone app, mean they've found themselves at the centre of a media and political hate campaign claiming they prey on the vulnerable through their lack of transparency and interest rates in the thousands. Ed Miliband criticised them only last week in the Sun on Sunday for advertising during children's TV.

In response to some of these criticisms, Wonga has released a short film by Bafta-nominated director Gary Tarn to challenge perceptions about their 'average customers' who turn out to be single with no dependents with 30% aged 18-24, not unlike most students.

The film,'12 Portraits', features twelve happy people, even happier for having taken out a Wonga loan, and students make up two of them.

Music student Adam Cinelioglu took out a Wonga loan when he was caught out by high London rents during his first year at Tech Music School.

"I could have easily asked parents or friends but I thought 'I am an adult now, it is about time to manage my own money'."

The 19 year-old called his decision a choice and would take out a similar loan again but his testimony is not enough for the NUS. They're running a campaign to ban short-term lenders from advertising on campus.

NUS Welfare Officer and University of Kent graduate Colum McGuire told me that their research shows any level of debt for students has a massive impact on their ability to live well and stay in education.

Their campaign partly stems from his belief that, "it's not good enough to just see students through the door. We actually want to see students thrive in their studies."

But their research also looked at the cold hard facts of rising living expenses versus maintenance loans and found that 50% of students regularly worry about meeting basic living costs.

In which case, it's not entirely fair to put the blame for increasing numbers of students taking out short term loans on the lenders themselves, who simply see themselves as providing a sensible option for adults, in control of their finances but looking for a bit of spare cash in these difficult times, to which students are no exception.

The key seems to be the £8,566 average shortfall between the cost of student life and annual government support.

McGuire agrees. "I think the issue we have with the grant system is that it's old.

"No review has been done and no more support given while living costs are continuing to rise."

So while I make no excuse for the lenders the Office of Fair Trading have called "misleading", I'd like to see some of the MPs who have come down so hard on 'loan sharks' point some of that critical thought inward and address the huge gaps in student maintenance funding.

If they don't, we will only see more students ending up in debt or working longer hours at the expense of their studies.