Young people are worried about job prospects after graduating
Many students are opting to stay living at home, with more than a third saying they will base their university choice on cost, a survey suggests.
The UK Youth Parliament survey looked at the impact of the recession on choices in higher education.
There were fears there would not be enough part-time jobs for students.
Also revealing concern about the economy, a National Union of Students survey found 80% of students were worried about graduate job prospects.
The UK Youth Parliament survey revealed a widespread expectation that the recession would put pressure on student finances - and suggested a shift away from the traditional image of students living away from home for three years.
The survey found 36% of young people said "the recession will affect their choice of university or course, with many opting for cheaper courses or choosing a local university so they can live at home".
James Greenhalgh, Member of Youth Parliament, launches a symbol of debt
This suggests a growing trend - as a survey in 2006 had found that one in five students were now living at home, with a fall in student numbers in university accommodation.
The UK Youth Parliament survey of more than 1,000 young people found that 64% feared a negative impact on students from the downturn, such as less money from their families, loss of parents' jobs and fewer opportunities for working during term time.
Almost nine out of 10 expected to get paid work while at university.
The UK Youth Parliament, which has 500 elected members representing 11 to 18 year olds, is to publish a report on student finance, Access Denied.
Member of Youth Parliament, James Greenhalgh, released a floating pound sign over Westminster to launch the report, as a symbol of student debt.
"We must unite against any possible proposal by the government to increase tuition fees during the review this summer," said Mr Greenhalgh.
The higher education sector in England has begun a debate about raising tuition fees - and the survey found 95% of young people were opposed to lifting the current £3,000 per year limit.
The former education secretary, David Blunkett, says against the background of the financial downturn, it would be "unacceptable to lift the cap and have a free-for-all across universities".
Mr Blunkett, who introduced the first tuition fees, says it is "absolutely vital that no young person should reject the idea of higher education because they fear running up substantial loans".
The National Union of Students has carried out a separate survey in England which has found much anxiety about the likely impact of the downturn.
It found 80% of current students were "concerned" or "very concerned" about not being able to get a job when they graduate - a problem compounded by the debts that many will have accumulated.
In response, the survey found that one in three students are now "more likely" to seek to stay in education in postgraduate courses.
"It is clearly an extremely worrying time for all students, particularly with top-up fees leaving them in record levels of debt," says NUS president, Wes Streeting.
Figures published by England's Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills show an increase in the proportion of young people entering higher education.
These provisional figures for 2007-08, defined as for Higher Education Initial Participation Rates, show a rise from 42% to 43% - using a new counting methodology.
However a considerable gap remains between male and female entry to university - with 49% of young women going into higher education, compared with 38% of young men.