Colleges across Scotland are putting in measures such as warm spaces in libraries and free breakfast clubs as concerns mount over how the cost-of-living crisis will affect students.
Nineteen out of Scotland’s 26 further education colleges responded to the survey by Colleges Scotland, the representative body of Scotland’s colleges.
One college has put in place a scheme to distribute free coats from members of staff to students after every college which responded to the survey reported they were “concerned” the cost of living could lead to rising drop out rates.
Free lunches will also be offered at most colleges.
More than nine out of 10 colleges which responded have already put in place “warm space” plans for students this winter, and into the spring, like libraries and study rooms.
Community fridges have also been installed at Edinburgh College campuses with City of Glasgow processing same day payments for students in need of cash urgently.
West Lothian College has installed washing machines and tumble dryers on campus to save students money on energy costs.
The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland reported this year that 25% of students were unable to pay their rent in full on one or more occasion.
It also found that about two thirds (64%) have experienced mental ill-health as a result of financial pressures with 60% of students worries or stressed about their finances “frequently” or “all the time”.
Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland said the interventions come despite the sector’s own challenging budget cuts.
She added: “Staying warm and having access to food and financial support is critical for learning and to help students complete their course.
“And, while the Government has now announced plans to provide support on energy it won’t impact on the massive rises in other living expenses.”
Struthers said students have already experienced “incredible stresses” following the Covid pandemic.
“We want students to know their college is here to help wherever, whenever, and however we can,” she added.
Lydia Rohmer leads on student poverty for Colleges Scotland and emphasised learning “won’t happen” if students are stressed, worried about bills or arriving hungry for class.
“The financial anxiety of some students is palpable at the moment. Whether it’s keeping students warm, providing food, or other practical means, colleges will stretch our resources as much as we can to help students cope,” she added.
“Everything we do as a college is about giving students every opportunity to enjoy a better future – it’s vital the cost-of-living crisis doesn’t overtake that chance.”