The average debt of students leaving university in England, Scotland and Wales has risen by 33% on the year.
Got a dream career? It will cost you
This year's graduates owe £12,180 on average, an increase of £4,055 on 2003, according to a study by NatWest bank.
The study found that this year's new students expect they will need £26,000 to pay for their time at college.
Eighty-four percent of them predict they will get a part-time job, although only 35% of undergraduates found work this year, an 18% decline on 2003.
Of those who have already lined up a part-time job, three-quarters believe they will not be able to cover their living expenses and tuition fees without the extra income.
Nearly half of students with part-time jobs admit to skipping lectures in order to work, and over a fifth have considered dropping out of university to make their part-time job a full-time one.
A third believed it would take more than ten years to pay off their debts, an increase of 13% on those surveyed last year.
NatWest surveyed more than 1,000 graduates, 1,000 students and 1,000 sixth-formers in England, Wales and Scotland.
Anne-Marie Blake, head of student and graduate banking at NatWest, said: "Although the thought of graduating with debt can seem daunting, a university education gives you a great footing for your future career. The value of a university education should never be underestimated."
A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "This survey ignores the fact that we are reintroducing a grant of up to £2,700 each year for the lowest income students which will mean those students most in need will have to rely less on student loans and certainly commercial loans and for some will mean lower levels of maintenance loan debt.
"Students should also know that the latest OECD report said that the financial benefit from getting a degree in the UK is among the best in the world. That is why we certainly agree with NatWest that a university education gives you a great footing for your future career."