Students facing a financial shortfall have increasingly turned to cryptocurrency investment to fund life at university, a survey has suggested.
The proportion of students investing in cryptocurrencies tripled in a year, website Save the Student found.
But one 22-year-old investor said he had lost money and warned others to do their research before getting involved.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they had considered dropping out of their studies.
Mental health issues and the pandemic were the most likely reasons, but 41% said money was the key issue.
“With an unstable part-time job market as well as some parents losing earnings due to the pandemic, the usual funding sources for students bridging the finance shortfall have become hard to come by,” said Jake Butler, from Save the Student.
The survey found that the typical student faced a shortfall of £340 every month, as maintenance loans failed to cover the average monthly living expenses of £810.
Financial help from parents, a part-time job and savings are still the most likely ways by far to plug that gap.
Some said they had found other ways to raise money, ranging from overdrafts and selling possessions to gambling and taking part in drugs trials.
Investment in cryptocurrencies was still niche, with about 6% of students trying it, but their numbers had risen threefold in a year.
One of those was Daniel Tones, who studied psychology at the University of Warwick.
The 22-year-old said that income from a role as a student ambassador had been limited during the Covid crisis, but he had managed to bring in some money by making Amazon deliveries.
Group chats had planted the seed of interest in cryptocurrency investment, he said.
“I gave it a try,” he said, “but very quickly I made a loss.”
He said he wished, after talking to economics students about it, that he had learned a lot more before choosing to take the risk. It was very easy to start putting money in, he said, but he ended up losing a few hundred pounds.
Warnings to young investors
Other students say that investing has been more successful for them, but regulators have warned young people to be aware of the risks when using their money in this way.
The Financial Conduct Authority has said that young people are investing in high-risk products for the “challenge, competition and novelty” involved.
They were attracted by the “thrill” rather than by saving for the future, it said.
In June, the regulator said that 14% of crypto buyers who were surveyed said they had borrowed to invest, buoyed by reports of big gains – a statistic one analyst described as “simply terrifying”.
Questions to ask
The FCA runs a campaign to prevent investment harm, using online advertising, advising people to ask:
- Am I comfortable with the level of risk?
- Do I fully understand the investment being offered to me?
- Am I protected if things go wrong?
- Are my investments regulated?
- Should I get financial advice?