Youth unsure of university cost-benefit analysis

Tuition fees major concern for schoolchildren, Sutton Trust discovers

May 30, 2013

More than two-thirds of secondary school pupils in England and Wales have major reservations about the cost of going to university, a poll has found.

A survey of more than 2,500 11- to 16-year-olds carried out for the Sutton Trust reveals that although 86 per cent believe that attending university will help them “get on in life”, 65 per cent have significant concerns about the financial implications.

Tuition fees are the main obstacle: 28 per cent of those worried about finances say they are the chief concern, even though undergraduates do not have to pay them up front.

Some 19 per cent are most worried about living costs, while 18 per cent fear the implications of a lack of income while studying.

Only 7 per cent are unconcerned about the costs of university.

The survey found that 23 per cent of students from the least affluent families cite finance as their biggest consideration when deciding whether to attend university, compared with 14 per cent among their wealthiest peers.

The survey also reveals that a higher proportion of black and minority ethnic students than white students say they are very likely to go to university (49 per cent compared with 35 per cent).

Overall, 38 per cent of those asked say they are “very likely” to attend university, with 43 per cent saying it is “fairly likely”, the Ipsos Mori poll found.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the trust, which campaigns for better access to university for disadvantaged students, said the charity was urging the government to return to means-testing for fees “so that those from low- and middle-income families pay less for tuition”.

Hugh Rayment-Pickard, co-founder of IntoUniversity, a charity that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in accessing university places, said it was vital to ensure that secondary pupils understood the long-term benefits of obtaining degrees.

“Students from the poorest backgrounds will be very averse to taking on such a big debt. They will find it terrifying unless they understand the many benefits,” he said.

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