THE rise and rise of a university education's cost is revealed today in a survey showing students expect their degrees to cost more than £30,000.
Welsh students about to start their first term of university this autumn expect to spend £30,241 during a three-year degree course, including tuition fees.
On average they expect to graduate with debts totalling £13,950.
The survey, by NatWest, found the introduction of increased tuition fees charged by universities in England could put off A-level students next year.
It found 64% of sixth formers would be less inclined to go to university in 2006 when the new fee structure is introduced.
More and more students are having to rely on their parents and on part-time jobs to cope with the cost of university.
A quarter of parents give their children an allowance. Another 25% get money from their parents as and when they need it.
In 2004 there was a marked decrease in the number of students getting parental support. But this year there has been an increase with only 40% not getting any assistance at all.
Graduate debt is continuing to rise, the bank said. Welsh graduates now expect to leave university with £12,620 of debt.
It said 72% of graduates surveyed left university with debts of more than £10,000.
The average graduate starting salary is £12,130 - an increase on last year - and just 15% of students had a job confirmed on graduation.
James Knight, president of the National Union of Students in Wales, said undergraduates would not face the kind of costs mentioned in the NatWest survey until September next year.
Then top-up fees of up to £3,000 will replace the current tuition fees of around £1,000 a year at English universities.
At the same time Welsh students studying here will have to pay £1,000, while English students studying in Wales will pay anything up to £3,000.
Despite this Mr Knight said official government figures have tended to underestimate levels of student debt because they have been based solely on amounts taken out in student loans.
He said, "Most students take out commercial debts including things like store cards and credit cards because they cannot live off student loans of up to £4,000 per year. NUS Wales' position has always been that we stand for free education, but also a decent living grant for all students who need it because it costs money to study.
"You don't ask someone in a full-time job to do another one to support themselves but that is what we ask students to do."
Nearly two thirds of Welsh students said they were concerned about the amount of debt that they were in.
And a quarter said they had considered packing in their courses to find a full-time job.
For sixth formers starting university this summer, the biggest concern was money being tight. More than eight out of 10 saw it as a problem. In comparison, 72% were worried about keeping up with their workload.
Ann-Marie Blake, head of NatWest student and graduate banking, said, "University is an investment in your future and nowadays a degree is a prerequi-site in most well-paid jobs. It is a great footing for your future life and helps you learn to stand on your own two feet. It is great to see that the level of graduate debt has not risen at the same pace as in previous years, which could be due to the increase in parental support that we have seen this year. However, concerns about increased tuition fees should be considered for future students."