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The Perils of University Debt and How to Avoid Sinking

Keeping Your Head Above Water
With tuition fees rising and university debt at an all time high, its time to start thinking seriously about bursaries, budgeting and earning while you learn.

Talk with your parents about whether they can help you out financially. According to Sainsbury’s Finance, 53% of all students will be given financial support by their parents at an average of £8,070 per student per year. 1 in 10 parents intending to raise £20,000 to support their offspring.

According to NatWest’s sixth annual Student Living Index 52% of all students are receiving the same or more parental support than the same period last year.

If your parents want to help you out, and are able to, it might be worth grabbing that opportunity. Yes, you want to be independent, and that’s commendable, but the reality is that you’ll come out of university with a hefty debt. If you can’t find a job immediately you graduate you may have no option but to move back home anyway. That isn’t pessimism but reality, so it’s wise to accept any help that’s on offer while you are at university.

Do your research to find out if you are eligible for any grants, bursaries or scholarships. Many students assume they’re not, but as universities now charge the maximum for tuition fees, they are expected to provide bursaries, and you don’t have to pay these back. If you’re a fresher, it’s worth looking into sandwich placement years now. A successful placement might mean that you don’t have to apply for a student loan for your final year.

If possible find a job that you can do along with your studies. It’s worth putting the extra hours in for at least the first two years of your degree. Some students manage to keep a job all the way through. You can support yourself and ease any guilt about spending your parents’ money on the odd luxury! If you can save you might be able to put some aside to help you between graduation and finding a job or to help with the cost of a postgraduate course. You make friends outside university which enriches the experience. You get work experience that adds to your CV.

Learn to BUDGET! With the ease of internet banking you can keep an eye on your budget. Work out approximately how much money you will have coming in for the term - from student loans, parents and part time jobs. Divide by the number of weeks in the term. Don’t forget about living costs during half terms and weekends. Once you have your weekly budget, check weekly or fortnightly that you’re sticking to it. It’s a good idea to do it more frequently when you first start as there will probably be costs you’d forgotten to add in – like laundry and course books. Don’t panic if you spend too much one week such as Freshers’ Week. Some weeks you’ll spend less, for example when you have a lot of work to do and there’s no time for partying!

A graduate who comes out of university with no debt is rare and lucky but being in debt is common for most twenty-somethings. The best possible outcome is to leave university feeling that you have made the most of your experience and done everything possible to keep the debt as low as possible. Do your research into bursaries, scholarships and grants available, get a part time job if your study allows it, and keep an eye on your budget, and you WILL keep your head above water.

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