Working class kids more likely to quit uni over debt fears

16 May 2003
Working class kids are more likely to drop out of university because of money and debt worries, according to new research by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The study by Glasgow University academics, Alasdair Forsyth and Prof. Andy Furlong, examined the higher education career paths of some 300 students from working class areas in Scotland.

They found a disproportionate number of students from poorer backgrounds were more likely to quit university.

The academics said working class students were more likely to prematurely quit courses because of 'unfamiliarity' with higher education. Poor advice by school teachers and the careers service often led to 'inappropriate' course choices, they said.

They also found financial insecurity delimited course choice and the length of time students were prepared to spend in higher education.

Debt was another factor deterring working class students from finishing their courses.
The researchers found a sense of 'isolation and low morale' among students compounded financial worries.

Alasdair Forsyth said: 'Our work confirms that disadvantaged young people are not enjoying as great a level of success in higher education as their peers. They are often deterred by economic hardship and fear of debt from entering full-time education in the first place. Better financial help, especially non-repayable bursaries, would enable more of them to complete their degrees, especially those who enrol for longer, more prestigious courses.'

A 20-year-old diploma dropout confirmed the academic's viewpoint: 'Probably the biggest factor why I left the college, well my mum and dad don't work so there isn't a lot of kind of financial support at home, plus the student loans, the fact of getting into debt every year and then you aren't guaranteed a job at the end of it.'

'Losing out? Socioeconomic disadvantage and experience in further and higher education' is published for the Foundation by The Policy Press.

The National Union of Students claims £20,000 debt fears discourage nearly nine out of 10 young people from going to university.