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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Student debt 'soaring'
students in lecture
Students are skipping lectures to earn money

The average level of graduate debt has risen by nearly a half over the past year, a survey has found.

The impact of tuition fees in England and Wales contributed to an average debt of 8,125 - an increase of 2,489, or 44%, over the past 12 months.

The study, by the NatWest bank, found that a fifth of students say that they cannot see a way out of debt for at least ten years after graduating.

And the research showed that debt-ridden graduates are returning to the family home in droves after leaving University.

The study found 64% of graduates moved back to live with their parents, an increase of 14% on last year's figure.

Part-time jobs

NatWest calculated that the average cost of a degree has now reached 19,048, including tuition fees of up to 1,100 a year in England and Wales, as well as student staples such as books and beer.

Although debt figures look scary, most graduates do not regret the experience and see it as a worthwhile investment
Ann Marie Blake, NatWest
But while their debts were rising, the bank said average starting salaries for graduates fell over the last 12 months, from 13,422 to 12,659.

The current crop of school leavers recognise that they need to earn a salary in order to help meet the costs of higher education - 91% of students said that they would take a job while at University.

But 43% of current students admitted that they had missed lectures in order to do more shifts at work and 18% said they had considered dropping out of university altogether.

However, 70% of graduates said they did not regret going to university and 56% were not worried about their debts.

"Significantly our research once again re-affirms that, although debt figures look scary, most graduates do not regret the experience and see it as a worthwhile investment," said Ann Marie Blake, NatWest's head of student and graduate banking.

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