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Tuition Fee Debt Discourages Poorer Students

Posted by Richard Ward

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

Research undertaken by the UCL Institute of Education has concluded that students from poorer families are more likely to be deterred from university by tuition fee debt.

The study compared attitudes of people considering applying to university in England in 2002 and 2015. During this time tuition fees increased from around £1,100 per year to £9,000.

The research found that young people had generally become used to paying higher fees, however concerns over debt levels had risen among low-income families.

Those in the 2015 survey had come to accept student debt, recognising it was part of getting a degree and represented a long-term investment.

But the study found there were different attitudes among low-income families, who had become more averse to taken on debt.

The levels of debt aversion among low-income families was even greater in 2015 than in 2012, with those representing the so called "squeezed" middle class appearing more concerned about debt levels after graduation.

Despite tuition fees increasing during these years, applications to universities continued to rise, with a higher number of students from poorer families now attending higher education.

However, one of the researchers, Prof Claire Callender, suggested there were still substantial differences in application rates depending on an individual's background.

She said: "Working-class young people are far more likely than students from other social classes to avoid applying to university because of debt fears.

"Student funding and fear of debt play a role. University enrolments may be increasing overall but policymakers must focus on ways to level the playing field for poorer students."