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Does the fear of debt constrain choice of university and subject of study?

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The new student funding regime introduced by the 2004 Higher Education Act in England is predicated on the accumulation of student debt. Variable tuition fees, repaid by student loans, will increase average student loan debt on graduation. This article examines how fear of debt and financial constraints affect prospective students' choices of where and what to study. Using data derived from a survey of about 2000 prospective students, it shows that financial issues constrain lower social class students' choice of university far more than those from other social classes. It demonstrates that fear of debt is related to two key financially-driven decisions - applying to a university with low living costs, and applying to one with good term-time employment opportunities - but only for students from low-income families. However, concerns about debt do not influence their choice of qualification and subject. The article concludes that low-income students are more likely than their wealthier peers to perceive the costs of higher education as a debt rather than an investment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Birkbeck, University of London, UK 2: London School of Economics, UK

Publication date: 01 August 2008

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