Strain is showing on the bank of mum and dad

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Tough economic times have left 86 per cent of parents worried that they will find it more difficult to support their children through university.

Average debts for students who start university in 2012 are expected to be £53,000 according to independent guide to university life

Some 16 per cent of students surveyed think it will take over 20 years to pay off this debt and 39 per cent think it will take between 10 and 20 years, according to the latest student debt research by the Association of Investment Companies.

Parents are even more pessimistic with 20 per cent who expect their child to have university debts believing it will take more than 20 years for their children to pay off the debt with the same percentage of parents as children (39 per cent) thinking it will take 10 to 20 years.

A total of 86 per cent of parents are finding or will find it harder to support their children at university, or they believe it will be harder in the future due to the UK’s economic troubles.

Half of those parents surveyed expect their child to graduate with more than £20,000 of debt and 14 per cent expect their child to graduate with more than £40,000 of debt – still lower than the’s prediction of £53,000.

Strategies to cut the costs include parents believing their children will live at home to save money (36 per cent) or grandparents pitching in with 13 per cent, two per cent more than last year, helping out their grandchildren.

Economic difficulties mean children are being urged to choose a lower-charging university by parents with 19 per cent saying they think their children should choose a cheaper course. But students have their own solutions in mind by choosing vocational qualifications in order to get a well-paid job on graduation.

Over a quarter of parents would like their children to delay going to university for a year with 14 per cent suggesting financial reasons for this decision and 11 per cent believing their child would benefit from work experience.

Communications director at the Association of Investment Companies Annabel Brodie-Smith advises parents to plan ahead in the long term to give their children an advantage in life.

“With the recession and the introduction of tuition fees adding to the financial strain of university expenses, families are clearly looking at ways to save money,” she said. “It’s not surprising parents are under financial pressure and some are keen for their children to live at home and to attend lower cost universities.

“If it’s possible to save for your children over the long term, you can give them a financial advantage in life.

“Investment companies offer parents an efficient way of saving as they can access the long-term potential of the stock market. Investment companies invest in a range of companies on your behalf, spreading your investment risk and they are available from as little as £50 a month, or over £250 lump sum.

“If you had invested £50 a month in the average investment company over the last 18 years you would now have an impressive £21,647.”

It is not surprising that some teeangers are considering whether being saddled with so much debt is worthwhile.

Some 67 per cent of students are worried about their job prospects due to the current state of the UK economy, which is up two per cent on last year and eight per cent up on 2010. More than a quarter of parents (28 per cent) think their children should reconsider whether university is the best option for them.

Some 30 per cent of students say their university debt will influence their career choice and they will target better paid jobs to pay off debt – especially in the North (35 per cent) and Midlands (36 per cent).

More than half of parents think their children will be funded through students loans, with 14 per cent of parents believing they will be the primary source and 12 per cent through part-time work.