Student choices: Children and parents put off by new fees and loans

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How great a deterrent is David Blunkett's new financial package for students? The fear of those who have opposed it in Parliament and in education has been that some of those who might be qualified and able to benefit from a university education will be put off.

The combination of a pounds 1000 fee for many, and the replacement of the maintenance grant by higher loans, does not look like a great selling point for teenagers or parents who take some of the strain.

But are higher costs really a serious deterrent? The Independent survey asked students whether the changes would greatly or even slightly affect their likelihood of going on to university or college.

27 per cent of students said that they would be much less likely to go on to university or college.

The deterrent effect was the same for girls and boys and across all regions of the country.

But there was a significant difference between the social classes. Almost twice as many prospective students in the lower social classes C2, D and E (34 per cent) admitted being seriously put off compared to those from professional and managerial homes. In social classes A and B, only 19 per cent said they would be put off a university education and in the middle, C1 category, 25 per cent felt deterred.

Another 45 per cent of students said they might be slightly put off by the new financial arrangements. More girls than boys felt slightly put off, but there was very little difference between different regions or social classes.

Only 28 per cent of students felt that their decision to go to university would not be affected at all by the new financial rules.

Parents were also asked whether the new financial package would affect them encouraging their children to go to university. Overall 48 per cent of parents said that it would not affect them at all, and 30 per cent said that it would seriously affect them.

But these totals disguised some sharp variations in parental reaction to fees and loans. Fathers were much less likely than mothers to feel seriously concerned about the new financial arrangements for students. A majority of fathers, but only 43 per cent of mothers, said the arrangements would not affect the way they encouraged their children to go to university.

Working class parents from social classes C2, D and E were four times as likely to be seriously concerned about the new financial structure than professional parents in classes A and B.

Only 11 per cent of parents in social classes A and B admitted to serious worry, but 43 per cent of C2, D and E parents thought they would be greatly affected by the new system.

71 per cent of AB parents said they would not be affected at all by the new arrangements, but only 30 per cent of C2,D,E parents were so unconcerned.