One survey found that 45 per cent of students who graduate this year think it will take ten to twenty years to repay the cost of their degrees, while almost twice as many as a year ago 14% up from 8% - believe they'll still be paying for their education more than 20 years later.
Other experts believe that, if tuition fees rise to £9,000 a year, average student debt could reach £80,000. It's a huge burden but the better informed you are, the better your chances of minimising the amount you owe when you graduate.
Organised by the National Association of Student Money Advisors, last March (2011) saw the first ever National Student Money Week, which highlighted the support available to everyone in further and higher education. This year's event will cover everything from sources of finance and the best way to build a credit history, to suggestions on enjoying the student experience without racking up your debt.
These tips will give you some ideas about how to get a degree that is worth its weight in gold and doesn't cost quite as much.
- The Student Loans Company provides loans to cover tuition fees and living expenses.
- Interest rates are linked to inflation, so this is probably the cheapest finance available to you.
- You start repaying loans after graduation, when you earn £15,000 or more a year before tax if you don't earn that much, you don't have to make repayments.
- If you started your degree in September 2006 or later, any outstanding balance on your loan will be written off 25 years after the April following the year you finished your course.
- Student loans are not wiped out if you go bankrupt or take out an IVA you still have to repay what you can.
- Try not to blow your loan on having fun work out what you can afford for clothes, food, entertainment, travel and household bills and stick to it.
- Get an NUS card and use the discounts it offers.
- Buy food in bulk, use own brands and markets and cook (and drink) at home whenever possible.
- Check out the small ads, www.gumtree.com and www.freecycle.org for free furniture and household goods and keep an eye out for items left on the pavement and in skips but ask first.
- It is a good idea to use price comparison sites to find the cheapest deals for utilities, insurance, food and more.
Your credit status
- Your first step is to check your credit report. This details your credit accounts and repayment record, including cards, personal and car loans, mobile phone accounts and utilities. Lenders see it when you apply to them, so you need to know that it's accurate and up to date.
- Register to vote and make sure that any applications you send come from the same address if you're registered at your family home, make applications from there, otherwise lenders could suspect a fraud.
- Only apply for credit when you're sure it's the right deal for you if you send out lots of random applications, you are likely to leave traces on your credit report that may make lenders think you're desperate.
- Keep an eye on your credit score, which lenders calculate to assess the chances that you'll repay what you owe. You can see your Experian Credit Score as often as you like during a free trial of CreditExpert. The higher your score, the more likely you are to get the deals you want. You could even pay lower interest.
- Best not to borrow more than you can afford to repay credit isn't free money.
- Make repayments on time, every time. A late or missed repayment stays on your credit report for at least three years and could make it difficult for you to borrow even after you graduate.
- Try not to be the only name on household bills if your friends run out of cash, you could be left with the debt and a compromised credit history.
- If you need to use a credit card for everyday expenses, make sure you repay it in full every month it can build up a good credit history that could help you to borrow what you need after graduation
- Talk to your lenders if you're having money problems and get free help if you're in financial trouble. Start with your student union or NUS rep or look online try Citizens Advice or National Debtline.
For more information, go to www.nasma.org.uk/student-money-week
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