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Student finance statistics 2022

Finder's statistics show that 33% of full-time students are extremely stressed about money and nearly half struggle with rent.

Being a student usually means late nights at the library, cheap drinks at the local pub and finally learning how to cook your own meals. But unfortunately for the majority of students in Australia, it also means being financially insecure and having very little money to get by.

Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker has collected data from over 18,000 Australians. The results show that students are struggling significantly more with their finances than those working full-time.

But if you are a student, don't fret. There are plenty of ways to set yourself up for a financially secure future.

The average student vs the average full-time worker

The financial position of students

Not surprisingly, students have substantially lower incomes than full-time workers. The average full-time student in our survey earns $16,310 per year, compared to $87,131 for full-time workers. According to the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, a single person earning less than $581 per week – equivalent to $30,218 per year – is defined as living below the poverty line, placing the average student well into poverty.

To pay their way through university, close to a third (30%) of full-time domestic undergraduate students work more than 20 hours a week, with 10% working more than 30 hours based on a Universities Australia study from 2017. This has increased from 24% in 2012, indicating that students are increasingly needing to work more hours to get by.

Finder's research shows that students also have substantially less in savings ($7,368) than those working full-time ($32,473) and they are able to save less money each month ($307) than full-time workers ($1,237). Unfortunately, this has a direct impact on living standards and health outcomes for students. Universities Australia found an alarming 15% of domestic undergraduate students regularly go without food or necessities because they can't afford them.

Student wellbeing and financial stress

Your years at university should be some of the best of your life, but Finder's data shows students (66%) report significantly lower levels of overall happiness than full-time employees (83%). Students are also more likely to report extreme financial stress (33%) than full-time workers (23%).

While we can only speculate on the various factors that might make full-time employees happier than students, research consistently shows a link between overall happiness and financial security.

Finder's data shows that students' most stressful expenses are rent or mortgage payments (41%), groceries (36%), petrol (20%) and their mobile phone bill (15%). Students who are renting are also more likely to say they struggle to pay rent (43%) than those working full-time (27%).

Student debt is rapidly rising

Unfortunately, the cost of higher education follows us into the workforce. Data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) shows the total amount of outstanding Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt has nearly tripled from $25.5 billion to $68.7 billion between 2012 and 2021. The average outstanding HELP debt is $23,685 as of 2021.

The average outstanding debt has increased by 56% since 2012, while the consumer price index (CPI) – a measure of the cost of a typical basket of goods – has grown by 19% over the same period. The percentage of people with more than $40,000 in debt has more than doubled from 11% in 2012 to 29% in 2021.


While you can't necessarily control the amount of debt you'll be left with after university, the good news is you won't owe a cent before you start earning above $47,014 per year. To keep track of how much debt you owe, you can check your balance online at myGov or by calling the ATO.

It's important that you know how much of your HELP debt remains, particularly if you're looking to take on further debt through a mortgage, for example, as this can further reduce your disposable income. If you can, opting to make voluntary repayments on your student loan will help to reduce the amount you pay through indexation charges.

How to manage your finances as a student

Set up good financial habits. Build yourself a weekly budget and deposit whatever money you can into a savings account. This will make you feel more in control of your money and give you a financial buffer for a rainy day. Money management apps like the Finder app are also a great way to track your income and expenses all in 1 place.

Get a casual job. Jobs such as food delivery, rideshare driving and tutoring can help you earn money and can fit flexibly around your study schedule. You can also sign up as a participant in surveys or research groups, which often pay with money or vouchers. Check out Finder's guide to side hustles if you're in need of inspiration.

Take advantage of student discounts. Every little bit helps, so make sure to get yourself a concession card. These are available to students in all states and give you discounts on things such as public transport, cafes, bars and movie tickets. Some tech companies even offer discounts on laptops.

Consider government assistance if you need it. If you're studying full-time or undertaking an apprenticeship, you might also be eligible for government assistance, depending on how many hours you work and whether or not you live with your parents.

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