SCHOOL leavers who start university next month will graduate with debts approaching £25,000 according to a shocking report which found young people struggling to find part-time work are being forced to take on both bank and student loans.
Increasing numbers of undergraduates face immediate debt because they are borrowing on top of their student loans to meet the costs of living, a survey of 2,000 people at universities across the country has revealed.
The findings, published today, show the average level of debt built up by during an academic year has risen by 5.4 per cent since 2009.
Students who start their courses from next month can expect to owe 24,700 by the time they graduate – 1,500 more than those who began university last year.
The debt level for graduates at one Yorkshire university is predicted to be more than 20,000 while students at seven of the region's nine institutions will finish their studies owing five-figure sums, according to the research.
Students at university in England are said to build up debts of 5,293 a year, while elsewhere in the UK the figures were 6,411 in Wales, 2,637 in Scotland and 3,769 in Northern Ireland.
The Student Debt Survey was compiled by Push, an independent university guide, which interviewed at least 15 students at each campus in the country.
Editor Johnny Rich said: "We are at a crunch point for student debt. Many talented potential students may shy away when they hear a degree will cost 25,000. As the Government and Lord Browne consider what to do about the future of student finance, these figures should give them a lot to chew on.
"Every potential student will have a tipping point where the costs just become too expensive. Student debt is increasing and one of the main factors is that people are doing less part-time work. Students just cannot get the hours or in some cases find work at all.
"We are seeing an increase in the number of students who are taking on debt other than their student loans – whether it is borrowing money from parents or from the banks."
This means some graduates are increasingly facing immediate debt on top of their student loans, which they do not start to repay until they earn more than 15,000.
Under current rules, students can claim a loan to cover the cost of tuition fees, plus extra for living costs. There are also grants for the poorest students who may also be entitled to apply for a bursary from their place of study.
The Browne Review will report back to the Government in the autumn with recommendations on changes to the way higher education is funded.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said today's predictions for graduate debts to approach 25,000 showed top-up tuition fees needed to be replaced. It is expected, however, that any changes to the system will need to increase the contribution graduates pay for higher education.
Today's figures show Hull University students had the highest average debt level in the region; those questioned owed 7,097 at the end of a year's study and expected to face debts of 21,290 on graduation.
They were followed by York St John University where a year's study left undergraduates with debts of 5,445 and a projected debt of 16,335 by the end of their course.
Huddersfield University students had the lowest level, according to the sample, with a year's study leaving them owing 2,656 and their entire course creating a debt of 8,309.
Hull University questioned the reliability of the figures. A spokeswoman said: "The findings of the survey are designed to be alarming but they should be seen in context. Push interviewed a small sample size of 15 students from each institution, this is equivalent to 0.075 per cent of our student population in Hull."
She told the Yorkshire Post the figures could be also be skewed by including international students in the survey. Their tuition fees can be around three times higher than the amount paid by home students.
She added: "We recognise student debt is a very important issue and that is precisely why we offer guidance to all students on how to manage their money effectively."
FOOTING THE BILL
Average debt created in a year according to survey.
York St John 5,445
Sheffield Hallam 4,904
Leeds Met 3,099