Cavalier males court debt

October 13, 1995

Male students are less concerned about going into debt than female students and more prepared to contribute towards their mainte/nance costs, according to a student finance survey at Leicester University.

More than a third of male students said there should be a student contribution towards maintenance, compared to 23 per cent of women. This could be because three quarters of men expect to benefit financially from higher education compared to 68 per cent of women.

The survey found that men have higher levels of debt than women and worry about debt less.

Nearly half of the female students worry "often" or "always" about debt, compared to under a third of men. On average female students began the academic year with debts of around Pounds 1,100, while the male average debt was just over Pounds 1,600.

Fifty four per cent of men took out student loans compared to 48 per cent of women, and the survey also found that four fifths of bank and building society loans are taken out by men. On average men also owed two and a half times more than women on their credit cards.

This is despite the fact that male students are more likely to be supported by their parents, to have savings and to receive sponsorship.

The Leicester survey did not find one female student in receipt of sponsorship. Instead it found that female students are more likely to work in term-time (21 per cent against 15 per cent) and in the vacations (72.5 per cent against 70 per cent) Women were consequently less happy about doing postgraduate studies. A higher proportion of men had considered further study and taking out a loan to cover the cost.

The survey, by Sara Hallowell, education and research officer at Leicester University Students' Union, was based on 462 returns to a postal survey from home and EU undergraduates.

Mature students were significantly under-represented in the sample. A fifth of students at Leicester University are classified as mature, but only 12 per cent of the sample surveyed.

What most surprised Ms Hallowell was the increase in debt between third and fourth years - when the average debt more than doubled. "This indicates that a year abroad or the first year of clinical study imposes a large financial burden on the student," she says.

When asked whether students should contribute towards tuition fees through a loan, 93 per cent said "no" because of financial pressure.

Student Finance Survey 1994/95 is available from Leicester University Students Union.

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