Students 'save thousands by going to college rather than university'

Students who choose to study at college rather than university save themselves thousands of pounds of debt, research suggests.

College students graduating from a three-year higher education course leave with average debts of 5,681, according to a study commissioned by the Association of Colleges (AoC).

A study published by Push.co.uk earlier this year, suggested that students who started university degrees in 2009 could expect debts of 23,200 on graduation, while those who started this autumn would graduate owing nearly 25,000. It means college students will graduate owing on average around 17,500 less than their university counterparts, today's study claims.

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The study is based on a survey of more than 500 college students, on one, two and three-year higher education courses. The majority were studying two-year courses.

It concludes that debt is lower for college students because many work while studying, they often live at home and have lower travel costs.

The findings show that more than seven in 10 (70.9 per cent) of college students surveyed were living at home, and a similar proportion (69.5 per cent) worked full or part-time while studying.

On average, students earned around 10,825 while studying, the study found. The average loan for all higher education college students was 4,776 per year.

The Push survey, which questioned 2,000 students, found that average yearly debt for those at university in England was 5,293.

AoC director of policy (education) Joy Mercer said: "These initial findings highlight the vital role that colleges are playing in providing high quality, affordable, flexible higher education courses."