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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 04:38 GMT 05:38 UK
Student debt 'tops 10,000'
university library
A monthly repayment of 200 is now the norm
Students who graduate this summer expect to have debts of at least 10,000 - an increase of 6,700 compared with 1999's graduates, a survey suggests.

Being able to pay off their debts after graduation was a major worry for 40% of the 2,000 students in England and Wales questioned.

students in bar
The average student debt is now 10,000
The NatWest money matters survey suggests monthly debt repayments of 200 a month were now the norm for graduates.

But the majority (90%) still regarded university as a good investment.

The survey found the average starting salary for graduates was now 13,422, although those starting work in London or East Anglia were more likely to start on salaries between 20,000 and 25,000.

Job satisfaction was cited as the most important factor for graduates when looking for their first job, although 58% ranked enjoyment as their number one priority compared to 84% questioned for last year's survey.

Government funding

The study also examined students' attitudes towards government funding of higher education and found over two thirds of 2002 graduates thought tuition fees were not a fair way to get students to contribute to their education.

The class of 2002 are the first to feel the full impact of the annual 1,075 tuition fee charge introduced in 1998.

Opinion was divided on how the government should change the system for funding students.

The NatWest survey found 45% of graduates preferred the current system of student loans, whilst 44% preferred a potential new system of maintenance grants and higher levels of graduate tax.

The government is currently reviewing student funding.

Part-time jobs

University of Central England student Matt Toffrey, 22, said he would graduate with 15,000 debt - even though he had two part-time jobs during his first two years' study.

Matt says he found it a strain to work and keep up with his studies - but less stressful than when he had no work and was not sure "where the next rent cheque was coming from".

Matt Toffrey
Matt Toffrey says he has a debt of 15,000
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We accept that students will leave university with debt but the fact is that student loan debt will be repaid only when the students can afford to do so.

"Graduates can expect to earn on average 400,000 more over their lifetime than the national average, so this debt should be seen as a worthwhile investment for the future."

NatWest advises graduates to make a budget plan before they start earning, to check they are not paying more tax than they should be, to repay borrowings with the highest rate of interest first and to buy an annual travel card to save cash.

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See also:

22 Apr 02 | Education
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