Student finance: Indebted to the price of a good education

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The Independent Online
Debt is a fact of life for most students. Indeed, it's common for many to leave college or university owing up to pounds 5,000. But there are ways to stop your finances spiralling out of control. James Bushby, 23, who studied for a BA (Hons) in business studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, found that having a year out in industry was a great help in controlling his debt: "I worked part-time while studying and I had a year out in industry. I managed to save up to pounds 1,000, which I used in my final year along with my overdraft and salary. I played rugby, so I was required to join the drinking sessions now and again. A lot of money in my final year went on photocopying, binding projects and applying for jobs. I am concerned about my finances, so I monitor them closely - and I'm really glad I went and got a degree."

James's housemate Andy Crighton, 23, studied for a BSc in human biology. He found university a struggle with his heavy workload and suffered from a lack of financial support from his parents: "My parents weren't in the position to help me, so I had to take out three student loans and I had a pounds 1,500 overdraft facility. I reckon I'm in approximately pounds 6,000 debt. I'm still not sure when I'm going to be in the position to pay it back. I think it's very important to have a degree, though, and I couldn't have got through university without borrowing, so it's worth the hassle of debt."

Many students stay on to do an extra postgraduate year, which often adds to their debt. Katherine Duffin, 22, studied for a BSc (Hons) in natural resources at Newcastle University: "I'm in roughly pounds 5,000 debt. I always wanted to go to university and study sciences, but on graduating I realised I wanted to specialise in travel. I thought the debt I had incurred after graduating was manageable, so I didn't hesitate to sign up to do the diploma. Now, however, the debt is always in the back of my mind."

Students often stay in the parental home to reduce the expenses incurred while studying. Reshma Patel, 23, took a BA (Hons) in business studies at Westminster University: "I haven't got any debts, but then I was in a fortunate position - I was living at home and had a part-time job. I drove to university, so my only major expense was petrol. I don't drink, so I didn't spend a lot on nights out; we'd just go out for meals or to the cinema. I can totally appreciate how students get into debt. If you're living away from home you're bound to have to take out student loans."

Living with your parents is also an option once you leave full-time education. Indeed, for Debbie Foster, who recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in consumer services management from Leeds Metropolitan University, the move back home was vital: "I graduated with about pounds 5,000 in debt and I owe my parents lots of money as well. I want to get into fashion styling, which requires lots of unpaid work experience, so I took out a graduate loan. This has increased my debt significantly. I keep my outgoings down by living with my parents. I'd like my own place, but it's a luxury I just can't afford right now."