Students in England face a cost-of-living crisis as loans and grants fail to keep pace with rents and bills, claims the National Union of Students.
The gap between income and expenditure for a typical student amounts to more than £7,600 according to NUS analysis.
The union compared the cost of living and studying for the 39-week 2013-14 academic year with typical income from government grants and loans.
The government said it was targeting support at those who needed it most.
Rent, bills and other outgoings continue to rise year after year above the rate of inflation but grants and loan rates were frozen this year and will only rise by 1% next year, says the union.
It estimates that a student living outside London will pay an average of £21,440 in tuition fees, books, equipment, rent, travel and other living expenses.
Against this, they have a potential income of £13,747 composed of their tuition fee loan plus maintenance loans and the grants available to those on average and low incomes.
This leaves a shortfall of £7,693.
In London, higher rents mean students typically spend £23,187 says the union - but they are also eligible for a higher maintenance loan of £6,090 though this still leaves them with a shortfall of £7,654, says the union.
The union adds that some students from less well-off families who are eligible for grants are facing an additional squeeze as the level at which they can claim maximum support has remained at a household income of £25,000 since 2008.
NUS president Toni Pearce said: "Those who do not have the rare luxury of resorting to the 'bank of mum and dad' are increasingly being driven to work full-time alongside study where jobs can be found, or worse still, into the arms of predatory pay day lenders just to make ends meet.
"We need a financial support system that ensures students get what the support they need, when they need it."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills said the government's student finance package was designed to target support at students from the poorest households.
"This year, students from the lowest income households can access over £7,100 of living-cost support, of which over £3,350 does not have to be repaid.
"The government also provides additional, non-repayable support to students in specific circumstances, such as students with children and disabled students.
"Scholarships and bursaries are also available from most universities, and students in hardship can apply for additional support through the Access to Learning Fund."