My experience of trying to be a debt free student

Having graduated from Chichester University after studying for 5 years I feel very lucky to have escaped with little debt.

My story starts during A-Levels when there was a lot of pressure for everyone to sign up to university. It was expected that we should go to university, however I was put off by the fees and living costs associated with being a student.  My parents hadn’t saved for my education and didn’t have any spare money to be able to support me financially. This was very difficult, my parents were upset they couldn’t help out especially when a number of friends were being given allowances and help with living costs.  No one in my family had been to university so I don’t think they realised how expensive it would be.

I wanted a good career so after spending a year off travelling, I decided to go to university but I wanted to do it without the debt.   I found that going to university part-time would mean that I could earn enough money to support myself therefore not having to rely on loans.  At the time, fees were mean tested and I was entitled to free fees and a small bursary of £250 per academic year to help with the cost of books.

I worked full-time in shifts around lecture times which meant that I had an income so was self-sufficient.  I lived in my own flat, and managed to live comfortably with what I was earning. I continued to work in this way for four years, working 37 hours, attending 8hrs of lectures and completed assignments every week. This was hard work and during this time my social life suffered. A down side of me trying to be debt free is that I would never say I had the typical student experience!

In my final year, I had to go full time at university, meaning I could only work part-time. Having been comfortable financially for the previous years this was a bit of a shock! I worked as many hours as I could, and got a lodger to help contribute to the bills.  However, with the drop in income I had no option but to get a student loan.  This went against my plans of leaving University as a debt free student but it was either that or leaving without a degree!  At the time I was disappointed that I couldn’t be debt free but now I realise just how lucky I was, with a lot of my peers being in excess of £15,000 in debt.

It is hard to imagine how in the future people will be able to afford to go to University. With fees increasing over the last few years, how much will it cost in 18 years’ time? With graduates starting their careers in thousands of pounds of debt it puts a lot of pressure on people to have to earn high salaries at an early stage in their career so they can pay of their loans.

Bill Weston writes about his experiences as a student, and gives his views on how people can prepare for their own education and their child’s education. Bill believes that if you can afford it, saving for your child’s education will help your child afford to continue with their education, for information on saving options visit

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