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Attitudes to Debt (Summary)

Attitudes to Debt (Summary)

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A detailed survey of student's attitudes to debt and how this affects higher education. Published by Universities UK (formerly the Conference of Vice-Chancellors and Principals).
A detailed survey of student's attitudes to debt and how this affects higher education. Published by Universities UK (formerly the Conference of Vice-Chancellors and Principals).

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Published by: Connaught Hall, University of London on Jun 01, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Attitudes to debt
School leavers and further education students’ attitudes to debt andtheir impact on participation in higher education
 C  U I   S  U MM
This study aimed to investigate the impact of debtand perceptions of debt on participation in higher education (HE). It was commissioned by UniversitiesUK and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and undertaken by Professor Claire Callender of South Bank University and theCentre for Higher Education Research andInformation (CHERI) at the Open University.The findings are based on a survey of a nationallyrepresentative sample of just under 2,000 UK schoolleavers and FE college students in their final year of study, all of whom were working towards an HE entryqualification. The survey was undertaken betweenMarch and July 2002 and the response rate was 55per cent.
Decisions about HE entry
Of the respondents surveyed:15 per cent had decided not to enter HE;12 per cent were still undecided; and73 per cent of respondents had applied or intended to apply to university.
Those most likely to reject HE were:white - they were 8.5 times more likely to rejectHE compared with black and minority ethnicrespondents;from lower social classes;women;aged over 21;studying at an FE college rather than anindependent or state school; andheld anti-debt attitudes.
Those most likely to be still undecided about HEentry were:white - they were over 2.5 times more likely thanblack and minority ethnic respondents to be indoubt;from lower social classes;women;aged 21 and over;studying at an FE college rather than anindependent school;had a partner or a sibling who had been touniversity - they were nearly 2.5 times more likelyto be ambivalent than those with a partner whohad not been to university and 1.5 times morelikely to be undecided than those with a brother or sister who had not experienced university; andagreed that the worst aspects of university lifewere being in debt and having little money andthat student debt was a deterrent – they wereover 1.5 times more likely to be uncertain thanthose disagreeing with these statements.
Those most likely to enter HE were:attending an independent school - they were 20times more likely to enter HE than those in the FEsector;studying at a state school they were 1.5 timesmore likely to go to university than those in theFE sector;aged under 21 – they were 2.5 times more likelyto go to university than those aged over 21from the highest social classes – they were twiceas likely as those from the lower social classes toopt for HE;from a black or minority ethnic group;held debt tolerant attitudes – they were 1.5 timesmore likely to enter HE than those with anti-debtattitudes; andrejected rather than accepted that the worstaspects of university life were being in debt andhaving little money and that student debt was adeterrent.
2Attitudes to debt • Executive summary • Universities UK
Factors influencing respondents’HE entry decision
Prospective students’values as well as economicconsiderations influenced the way they framed andmade their educational decisions.
Attitudes to debt in general
Prospective students with tolerant attitudes towardsdebt were one and quarter times more likely to go touniversity than those who were debt averse, all other things being equal. Debt aversion deterred entry intoHE but was also a social class issue. Those mostanti-debt are the focus of widening participationpolicies and include :those from the lowest social classes;lone parents;Muslims, especially Pakistanis; andblack and minority ethnic groups.The least anti-debt were:attending independent schools;from the highest social classes; andmen.
Attitudes to the labour market
The pull of the labour market, getting a job andearning a wage were the most common reasons for not going to university, mentioned by 70 per cent of non-entrants. Non-entrants were five and half timesmore likely to express such views compared withthose who had decided to enter HE (66 per centcompared with 12 per cent). The need to earnmoney was the most common reason the undecidedgave for their indecision about university. This wasmentioned by nearly three-quarters of them,especially those from the two lowest social classes.Unlike non-entrants, the indecisive stressed the needto earn money rather than just a desire for a job.They were three times more likely than entrants tosay that they wanted to earn money rather than gouniversity (37 per cent compared with 12 per cent).
Attitudes towards HE
Non-entrants were unconvinced of the benefits of HE, unlike entrants. Nearly four times fewer non-entrants than entrants believed in the need for adegree to get a decent job (16 per cent comparedwith 61 per cent). Nearly half as many non-entrantsas entrants subscribed to the promise of the financialreturns of HE (41 per cent compared with 74 per cent) and thought that university was a worthwhileexperience (56 per cent compared with 96 per cent).Non-entrants rejected the culture and values of HE,entrants embraced them. Well over half of non-entrants felt university was not for them and a thirdthought the student lifestyle was not for them,compared to hardly any entrants. The undecidedheld ambivalent attitudes to HE.
Finances and financial barriers to HE entry
These barriers were particularly marked amongthose undecided about HE entry. Both a lack of money and concerns about accumulating debtscontributed to their indecision. Not being able toafford university was the second most commonreason for their ambivalence about HE entry. Thiswas mentioned by over a half, but by three-quartersfrom the lowest social classes. The undecided werethe most likely to think that poor student finances andstudent debt were negative features of university life.Those believing this were one and half times morelikely to be ambivalent about HE entry compared withthose rejecting these views. Although this group werenot debt averse per se, half cited not wanting to buildup debt as a reason for being unsure about HE entry,rising to over three quarters from the pooresthouseholds.
Views on student financial support arrangements
Non-entrants were far less likely than either entrants,or the undecided, to view student financial support asa long-term investment in their future. Nearly threetimes as many non-entrants as entrants thought itwas not worthwhile getting into debt to get a degree. Athird of non-entrants felt that borrowing money topay for a university education was a good investmentcompared with half of entrants. Entrants had morecontradictory views. They were more likely thaneither non-entrants or the undecided to also believethat student funding and debt were deterrents to HEentry. Entrants were more worried than non-entrants
3Attitudes to debt • Executive summary • Universities UK

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