Students from single parent families are three times more likely to say they cannot afford a university education, research has found.
The evidence from the Sutton Trust finds that the fear of debt is deterring “significant numbers” of young people from going to university.
Research by Ipsos MORI found that four in five 11 to 16-year-olds aspire to a higher education.
However, 36 per cent of students from single-parent families say they are unlikely to go into higher education because “my families couldn’t afford for me to be a student”. This compares to 13 per cent of students who come from families with two parents.
Worryingly, 63 per cent of pupils believe that elite universities are more expensive for students than other universities – despite the fact that almost all institutions are now charging close to £9,000.
Also, 52 per cent of students said that elite universities are mainly attended by those from wealthy backgrounds; 27 per cent said that elite universities “are not for people like me”.
The study found that older pupils cite debt as the reason for saying that they are unlikely to continue to university. Of year 10 and 11 students, 29 per cent cited debt as a barrier compared to just
10 per cent of year 7 pupils.
Chair of the Sutton Trust Sir Peter Lampl called on the government to “think again” about its fees and loans package.
He said: “It is a real concern if those with the ability for higher education are being deterred by debt.
“Even before the recent increase in fees, we estimated that 3,000 students a year with good enough A levels in the right subjects to get in were missing out on top universities, often because they failed to apply.
“There is increasing evidence that the new fees are seen as too high. Ministers should consider means testing fees so that merit, not money, is the key consideration in a young person’ decision.”