Students on course for debt

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The Independent Online
STUDENTS starting college for the first time next week can expect to have debts of at least pounds 2,800 by the time they collect their degrees, according to Barclays Bank.

In a survey of 2,000 students this year, Barclays found that female students who graduated this summer had an average debt of pounds 1,615, while males owed an average of pounds 1,915. All of the students who took part in the survey had some degree of debt, with only 27 per cent owing less than pounds 400. With vacation jobs scarce, Barclays can only predict that the situation will get worse.

However, the survey concludes that students are not, in general, bad managers of money. Many are keenly aware of the different packages offered by the banks and only 6 per cent have run up debts on credit cards.

About 31 per cent of students have taken out loans under the government-backed Student Loan Scheme, 25 per cent have bank overdrafts and 21 per cent have borrowed from their families.

The National Union of Students believes that students cannot avoid getting into debt. 'They are being pushed into a structural debt that is inbuilt into their education,' a spokeswoman said. 'The loans and grants they get are not enough.' The situation is exacerbated by the fact that students are no longer eligible for social security payments during their holidays.

According to the Barclays survey, about 12 per cent of students believe either that they will never be able to pay off their debts or that it will take them many years. A quarter of students have also lost faith in their own banks and are planning to switch to another at the end of their college career.

There are no easy answers, but Barclays has produced a leaflet - the Barclays Financial Guide for Students - that is free, even to customers of other banks, and should be available from student branches of Barclays.

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