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13% of first-year students do not know total amount of tuition fees loan

A study also found that a quarter of students nearly did not apply, or go to university, because of debt worries.


Graduate stock

Graduate stock

Graduate stock

Around one in eight students are unaware of how much money they have borrowed to cover their university tuition fees, a government-commissioned report suggests.

It also indicates that around a fifth of university applicants are unsure about the amount they will have to take out in student loans.

The findings come just weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May announced a wide-ranging review of post-18 education – including tuition fees, which now stand at £9,250 a year for English and EU students.

The study, published by the Department for Education, found that 13% of those in their first year of university “did not know what amount of tuition loan they had taken out”.

It also showed that a quarter of students said they nearly did not apply, or go to university, because of debt worries, while half reported being “put off” by the costs of university.

However, the findings also reveal that of those who felt deterred, the fact that they could access tuition fee and maintenance loans, as well as that they would not need to start repaying the money until they were earning a certain salary, helped to ease their concerns.

Among the university applicants polled in the summer of 2015, around a fifth (19%) said they did not know the amount that they would be expected to take out in tuition fee loans, the study found.

“This might be because they were either unaware of or undecided about the amounts involved,” it said.

The research also suggested that many would-be students expect to get financial help from their parents while studying.

While nearly nine in 10 (88%) said they expected to get a tuition fee loan, almost two-thirds (63%) anticipated using their mothers and fathers as a source of income, with a similar proportion (62%) planning to use savings.

Would-be students from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to say they would get help from parents or savings.

“Financial factors were not the biggest influence on the final decision to apply to university,” the report said.

“The most important factors were the desires to be more employable, to achieve the qualification and to pursue an interest in a subject. This was the case for applicants from both the higher and the lower socio-economic groups.”

More than half (54%) of the applicants polled said they were put off to some extent by the cost of university, and, of those who said this, tuition fees were a bigger turn-off than living costs, and most would-be students (75%) thought university was a worthwhile investment despite the cost.

“For those applicants who were ‘put off’ by the costs of university, tuition fee loans, the repayment threshold and maintenance loans were considered to be the most important aspects of the student finance package that helped persuade them to apply to university despite the costs,” it said.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) said that one of the biggest challenges around student finance is that many get their first statement through and do not realise that as soon as they take out the loan they are paying interest of up to 6.1%.

“There is a lot of naivety in schools and colleges about this (student finance and costs),” he said, adding that it is partly down to government and universities to pass on information to students, rather than it being left to teachers and parents.

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