MORE than a third of Scotland's students have considered dropping out from their studies because of financial pressures, according to a new report.
•NUS Scotland president Liam Burns said the support system was broken
In what has been described as a "crisis," thousands of students across the country claim money problems are having a negative effect on their coursework.
One in two has resorted to taking on commercial credit such as bank loans, credit cards, or even money from doorstep lenders to make ends meet.
Student leaders warn that young people are being "pushed into poverty" simply by aspiring to attend university or college.
In the largest study of Scottish students ever undertaken, the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS Scotland) found that the majority are struggling with their studies due to money problems.
• Student: 'I was made redundant'
The report, Still In The Red, reveals that 36 per cent of students have considered dropping out from their course, with 89 per cent citing insufficient financial support as the main reason. Some 45 per cent also claimed excessive commercial debt as the primary factor. A third said they knew someone who had dropped out due to money worries.
For those students whose parents did not attend university, the situation is more acute, with 39 per cent thinking about abandoning their studies.
Most students (62 per cent) said a lack of money was damaging their studies while 61 per cent said they worry frequently or all the time about money. Half have been forced to use credit cards, and other forms of commercial credit, to get by.
Some 68 per cent of students are working more than the ten hours per week recommended in the last major reform of student support, the Cubie Report.
Liam Burns, president of NUS Scotland, said: "The student support system is broken and student hardship is at crisis levels. Studying should be based on ability to learn, not the ability to pay. Without fundamental and urgent reform of student support, explicitly increasing the amount students receive, this will never be the case."
Mr Burns, who warned that a single student drop-out costs the state "thousands of pounds", added: "In a post recession Scotland, students increasingly can't find part-time work to make ends meet, and where they do the vast majority are working far longer than any lecturer would condone.
"They are taking on damaging amounts of commercial debt, relying on the first-come, first-served postcode lottery that is discretionary childcare and hardship funds and left high and dry during the summer."
The report, published as more than 600,000 students are starting the new academic year, sought the views of more than 7,400 students from across all backgrounds.The sample included 1,190 further education students, 5,283 higher education students and 955 postgraduate students.
The findings come despite the abolition of tuition fees for students in Scotland, unlike south of the Border.
A spokesman for Universities Scotland said: "It is incredibly important for universities that students are able to concentrate on their studies if they are going to be as successful as they should be. Evidence suggests that having some debt and doing some work during term time is no barrier to academic performance, but having too much debt or too many work commitments can have a generally damaging effect."
He added: "It is about getting the balance right, something which is very hard in the current economic climate."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Even before the recession hit, the Scottish Government recognised the difficulties students face.
"We abolished back-door tuition fees, invested an additional 30 million in student support for the coming year and worked closely with NUS Scotland to ensure this money is targeted as effectively as possible."