According to BBC News Freedom of Information requests, the number of students requesting emergency cash has nearly tripled between 2018-19 & 2020-21 at 95 UK universities.
The responses also indicate that the amount of assistance given to those in need nearly doubled last fiscal year.
BBC News has heard from students that they couldn't afford rent because their retail and bar work was cut during the pandemic.
Universities claim they have intensified efforts to assist in "difficult periods".
Total of 132 higher education institutions responded to BBC Freedom of Information requests regarding their hardship funds over the last three academic years.
95 of those revealed the number of students who had applied for hardship funding and how many were successful.
Three out of four applicants were successful in all three years.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, (HESA), the number of students enrolled in UK higher-education also increased in those three years. However, this was slower than the increase in applicants for hardship cash.
Rachael Sampson (25), struggled to find a job as a part-timer when she moved to London in September 2020 to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
She applied for the university's hardship fund with PS941 in her bank account. After explaining that this would fall to PS241 due to her looming rent payment, she was told she wasn't "seen as currently being a hardship".
Ms Sampson stated that her mental health was affected by her study in a remote box room during the national lockdown.
Soon she was unable to afford food.
Ms Sampson stated that "one of the most shameful and embarrassing things I've ever done is go to the grocery and steal food," "stealing bread, pasta, and cheese, just so that I could eat."
Although her second hardship application was approved, she had to move in with her parents in Bradford.
She was able to return to London with the PS1,000 award after her in-person teaching resumed, but she is "resentful" of her financial problems.
Ms Sampson stated, "It's very difficult to pick yourself up from that because you feel like nobody wants you to help you."
RCSSD distributed PS80.913 in hardship funding for 2020-21. A spokesperson said that the RCSSD had done "swiftly", to help students affected by the pandemic, and that student wellbeing was its primary concern.
She stated that funds were allocated "via a panel of people who carefully assess student's individual circumstances", but warned that the process can take "time... especially during periods of high demand". Students should consult its advice and finance teams.
BBC News previously reported that 25% of English universities saw an increase in the number of students seeking hardship. These new figures show how many students sought help.
Students may apply for hardship funding directly from their colleges or universities. They decide how much to give out.
Many people created emergency Covid hardship funds.
The Office for Students (OfS), also provided PS70m more in hardship funding for English institutions during 2020-21 academic years.
According to the HESA, there are 282 institutions of higher education in the UK. Many of these institutions are not subject to FOI requests in England.
BBC News has heard from students that they felt frustrated by the cost of renting when their lectures were available online.
Jennie Bradford, 21 years old, studied at York St John University. She stayed in her private student flat and did not return to her family home in the event that in-person teaching resumed.
"There was always that question of, 'What if you need me to be back in York?'" She told BBC News.
To save money, she moved in with her boyfriend and lived on "cupboard basics" like soups and baked beans.
Ms. Bradford applied for the university’s hardship fund in July 2021, but was told that it was closed until October 2021. In the meantime, she could access food banks.
She tweeted about it, and she stated that the university allowed her to apply hardship funding under condition that she completed an online course in money management.
She said, "It was very insulting." "I pay for food and shopping. It's not my responsibility to manage it. I'm not spending it on unnecessary things.
She was awarded PS500 which paid rent for a month without any bills.
York St John University distributed PS541,935 in that academic year.
A spokesperson said:
Spokesman for Universities UK stated that institutions had "stepped up efforts to support students" during the pandemic, and were "targeting hardship financing where it is most needed".
He added that it was a difficult time for many students who are struggling to cope with the cost of living crisis.
According to Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis, the real-terms value for maximum maintenance loans for students coming from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will drop to its lowest level in seven decades during the next academic year.
Michelle Donelan, Universities Minister, stated that PS256m is available to students in this financial year. This includes universities' hardship funds.
She said that students with lower incomes "have the greatest access to cash support for their living expenses"
Cash-terms measures do not account for inflation.
According to the Scottish government, the average award for institutions in Scotland in 2019-20 was greater than PS1,070. Through hardship funding, more than PS96m was distributed "over time of the pandemic".
PS40m was created in Wales to alleviate student hardships for 2020-21.
Hillary Gyebi Ababio, vice-president of National Union of Students higher education, stated that it was becoming increasingly unsustainable for universities to need to share hardship funding with increasing numbers of students.
She said that "with the rising cost of living, rising student rent, and more insecure employment, it is clear that student hardship funding demand is far outstripping supply."
Laura Brown, co-head of the editorial team at Money Website Save the Student, said that the decrease in the amount per student over 2018-19 was "extremely disappointing".
She stated, "I am concerned that students will have yet more financial difficulties to come."
Nathan Standley also contributed additional reporting.
Are you affected by the issues discussed in this story? Please share your experiences by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to speak with a BBC journalist, please include a contact phone number. These are the ways you can get in touch with us:
If you are reading this page and can't see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or comment or you can email us at HaveYourSay@bbc.co.uk. Any submission should include your name, address, and age.