Student debt climbs

05 May 2004
A new study has revealed that the average student debt in England and Wales escalated in 2003 as the costs of studying rose.

According to the figures from Barclays Bank, the average student leaves higher education owing £12,069 through credit cards, bank and student loans - a ten per cent increase on 2002 student debt levels.

Barclays warned that if the current trend continues average student debt could top £33,000 after a three-year degree by 2010.

"The escalation of graduate debt over the last decade is the net result of the rising cost of living, the continued impact of the introduction of tuition fees and the abolition of the grant system," Jeremy Law, Barclays spokesman, told the BBC.

However, Alan Johnson, the Higher Education Minister dismissed the findings.

"To base future debt upon the growth in debt since 1994 is wrong because the student support system has drastically changed since then and the steep rise in debt levels is now tailing off," he told The Times.

The minister added: "Barclays have also ignored 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.

"Graduates will be able to get on to the housing ladder and will be able to contribute to pensions because the favourable terms of the student loan will mean that their repayments will represent a very small proportion of their total monthly earnings."

Most money owed by students was to the Student Loan Company, followed by banks, relatives, and credit card firms.

The bank added that a consequence of spiralling debt would be that people are unable to buy their first home or start paying into a pension until much later in life, having been saddled with debt from such an early age.