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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 16:20 GMT
Students 'need financial advice'
Lecture hall
Parents now contribute 4,000 per year to support students
With students debts rising - and university costing 13,000 per year on average - there are calls for improved financial advice for students.

An annual report into student life from accommodation provider Unite shows average debts have risen 9% to 5,760.

The report says financial advice does not reach those who need it most and calls for more guidance to be offered.

Parents are typically paying 4,000 per year for their children at university, the survey found.

The Unite report says that students are not being sufficiently guided to manage their limited income - particularly those from less affluent backgrounds.

With student debt increasing, Unite believes that students should be given far more financial planning guidance
Unite report

"More and more students are now in debt to a larger number of entities including government student loans, bank overdrafts, credit cards, personal loans and parental contributions.

"Students from more well off families are significantly more likely to take out a government student loan than students from less well off families.

"However students from less well off backgrounds appear to lack the proper knowledge of financial resources and are thus more likely to take out expensive loans and credit cards.

"With student debt increasing, Unite believes that students should be given far more financial planning guidance of we are to ensure that fewer drop out of university for financial reasons."

'Not complacent'

The report also found that parental contributions continued to be an important source of income - with more than 93% of students relying on their parents for help with costs such as accommodation, food and fees.

The typical amount paid by parents each year is 4,000, the survey found.

President of Universities UK Drummond Bone said that while the new student finance package would certainly help students manage their finances better, there were more complexities and choices which needed to be explained.

"We should listen to the student demand that we need to do still more to make all the available support easy to understand and access.

"We are not complacent and recognise that there is always more that can be done.

"It is vitally important that we all - universities, schools, the DfES - continue to get information out about grants and bursaries, and to demonstrate that those from the all backgrounds, including the poorest, will be better off while studying under the new student fee and support arrangements."

Higher fees

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said the new student finance package was designed to enable all students with ability and desire to follow their dreams.

He said students no longer had to pay a penny for fees or loans until they are in work and earning more than 15,000

He added: "Student loans only charge interest at the rate of inflation, so graduates will not be penalised for taking longer to pay off their loan, or for taking time out to have a family or a gap year.

"And, any graduate still paying off their loan 25 years after graduation will have their outstanding debt paid by the government."

With the reintroduction of maintenance grants and generous bursaries, students will have a much more generous support system than before, he added.

'Unacceptable'

However, universities are now allowed to charge variable tuition fees of up to 3,000 a year.

National Union of Students vice president for welfare Veronica King said she was "deeply concerned" by the reported rise in levels of student debt". "We support Unite in calling for better financial advice to students.

"The reality is that top up fees and increased living costs are putting a huge strain on students, some of whom desperately need guidance to be able to manage the cost of higher education.

"Not tackling the impact of fees on students' personal finance will surely be unacceptable this year and in future."


SEE ALSO
Q&A: Student fees
23 May 06 |  Education
Universities 'must target poor'
29 Nov 06 |  Education
New students face future of debts
22 Aug 06 |  Business

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