Fun factor ignored in pupil sums

August 16, 1996

THES reporters on the annual race of students for places which gets under way this week with hurdles for both sides.

School-leavers grossly underestimate how much they will spend on enjoying themselves at university, according to a new survey of debt.

Preliminary findings from the 1996 NatWest Student Money Matters survey found that undergraduates spent twice as much as they expected on optional items, including their social lives.

The sixth-formers estimated they would spend an average of 13 per cent of their total undergraduate resources on things like hobbies, cigarettes, magazines, CDs and going to the pub. The NatWest survey shows that on average undergraduates actually spend 28 per cent of their income in this way.

But despite this they are increasingly well-informed about money matters and can predict accurately the amount of income, from grants and loans, they will have and about other costs such as rent.

The survey suggests that this may be because more sixth-formers are actually used to managing money. It found that 41 per cent of 1996 school-leavers have incomes of Pounds 80 a month or more compared with 11 per cent in 1994.

NatWest intends to produce the full report on the school-leavers in October followed by a survey of undergraduates in the New Year.

* The shortfall between average student income and expenditure has grown alarmingly for those studying outside London, according to the latest figures from the National Union of Students.

It estimates this figure has increased from Pounds 604 in 1991/92 to Pounds 1,381 in 1996/97. In the capital it has grown from Pounds 1,433 to Pounds 1,659 in the same period.

Rent in the provinces increased from an average of Pounds 1,140 to Pounds 1,596 a year while the amount spent on food, travel, books and leisure/social activities also increased significantly.

The union calculates that if grants had kept pace with inflation the grant would now be Pounds 3,130 outside London and Pounds 3,426 in the capital. In 1996/97 maximum grants will be Pounds 1,720 outside London and Pounds 2,105 inside London.

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