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The cost of learning

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Many parents and students significantly underestimate the debts they will run up if they go on to further education. Mike Collins investigates  
It is the ambition of many young people to continue their education once they have left school and study for a degree at university.

However, laudable though this is, many underestimate the scale of the debt they will incur, according to a recent report by the Association of Investment Trust Companies (AITC). Most sixth formers expect to owe about £6,000, whereas the AITC’s research suggests the true figure is more likely to be double that.

For example, students aged between 16 and 19 expect to graduate with debts of £6,199, just over £1,000 less than the £7,208 last year’s respondents expected to owe, despite tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year being introduced in September.

Parents calculated approximately the same low estimates as the students, saying their child would owe £7,080 by the time their courses ended. However, the AITC says this year’s graduate owes an average of £13,500.

Annabel Brodie-Smith, spokesperson for the AITC, says: “It’s alarming that so few of today’s graduates or their families really comprehend the financial implications of going to university.

“This year parents and future students have underestimated by a greater margin the amount of student debt they will face on graduation despite the publicity surrounding the introduction of top-up fees from September.”

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell says: “Our new student financial package is designed so that everyone with the ability and desire has the opportunity to go to university.

“Students can study first and repay only when they are earning over £15,000.”

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