Students count cost of study: pounds 3,000 debt

Two-thirds is borrowed through official loan scheme
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The Independent Online
Students owe an average of almost pounds 2,000 in loans and overdrafts, a rise of more than 30 per cent on last year, according to a survey published today.

The fifth annual Barclays Student Debt Survey shows that the amount owed by the average undergraduate has doubled since 1992. Two-thirds of the money is borrowed through the Government's student loan scheme; the rest comes from banks, parents and credit cards.

Most students now think they will be pounds 3,000 in debt by the time they finish their courses. The full student grant, pounds 1,885 a year for students outside London, has been cut over the past five years, while the loan, pounds 1,385 a year, has increased.

More students now save money before university in order to avoid debt. Half arrive at university with some money in the bank - an average of pounds 1,074.

More also take part-time jobs. This year 32 per cent did so, a 2 per cent rise since last year. On average, they worked 12 hours a week and earned pounds 52.

Researchers who interviewed almost 1,500 students from 16 universities found that those on maths and science courses were the deepest in debt, while those studying more than one subject owed least. This probably reflected the cost of books and equipment on their courses, Barclays said.

Arts students were less likely than others to have term-time jobs, but were more likely to have chosen their degree subjects because they were interested in them.

Social science students expected to earn the highest salaries after graduation, but their expectations were unrealistic, the survey found. They thought they would earn an average of pounds 14,400 a year after graduating, while in fact last year's social science graduates earned an average of pounds 11,700. Students on vocational courses earned most, taking home an annual average of pounds 13,600.

The researchers said students were becoming increasingly realistic about thedebt they were likely to incur while at university. Four out of 10 said they were worried or angry about being in debt, whereas 61 per cent were resigned to it.

More women students than men had jobs, but their hours tended to be shorter and they earned an average of pounds 46 against pounds 61 for men.

Richard Harvey, head of youth strategy at Barclays, said students had sought to replace shrinking grants with money from a wider range of sources.

"The message coming through the media or from brothers and sisters is that students will be in debt, and that the more they can do to help themselves, the better. Students are now supplementing incomes by turning to parents or banks, as a stop-gap or a long-term measure," he said.

Douglas Trainer, president of the National Union of Students, said, "This survey proves what we have been saying for some time. A series of grant cuts has left students financially devastated."