Student debt breeds ‘tolerance’

Stephen Lea, professor of economic psychology at Exeter University, said consumers were “pretty cheery” about getting into arrears for products such as cars and holidays.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that this was almost inevitable: “Students in effect have no option but to go into debt in many cases in order to maintain running expenditure, and that’s the thing that of course gets into a habit and an attitude of tolerating debt which can be pretty counter productive.”

His comments come as this year’s A-Level students prepare to get their results and embark on a university course which will see most of them owing fees of over £3,000 per year.

Coupled with student loan repayments, graduates are becoming accustomed to living with larger debts than their parents and Professor Lea also blamed credit cards for adding to repayments.

Yet he had a warning applicable to everyone, urging people to judge a loan by its total debt rather than just repayments, otherwise he warned that many consumers could become “stranded” economically.

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