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UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE; You can go to college and not end up in debt.

Byline: By TRICIA PHILLIPS

MORE students are going to university than ever and alarming numbers are leaving up to their neck in debt.

This summer's graduates owed an average pounds 13,500 but students starting in autumn are likely to leave with debts of pounds 20,000.

It's nerve-wracking to owe money and interest rates for students are going up to 3.2 per cent in September.

With more graduates chasing well-paid vacancies it now takes more than half (54 per cent) a year or more to find a job. As a result it can take up to a decade to clear the loans, with the current average running at seven-and-half years. But one way to beat the student debt trap is to get yourself a sponsor.

A lot of large organisations, such as the Armed Forces, are willing to help students pay their way through college. In return for cash, students commit to work for the sponsor after graduation.

It takes a bit of legwork to find the right sponsorship as there's no one place to find what's on offer. But the prospect of not owing a small fortune plus a guaranteed job is worth the effort.

Here we list some careers and sponsors that are worth considering...

MEDICAL

THE armed forces and the NHS both offer a range of bursaries for medical and dentistry students.

Thousands of medical students are funded by the NHS. In 2004-05, some 25,016 nurses and midwives began training, as did 11,676 therapists and other key staff.

All those taking a nursing diploma course are entitled to a non-means-tested bursary ranging from pounds 5,837 to pounds 6,859 per year depending on where you live.

For doctors, tuition fees, living costs and clinical placement costs can be met. Amounts vary. Visit www.nhs careers.nhs.uk for more details.

TEACHING

FOR post-graduates keen to pay off student debt, the bursaries available on teacher-training courses can be very tempting.

To boost recruitment in shortage subjects, students on teacher-training courses can claim tax-free bursaries worth pounds 6-9,000.

From September 2006, maths, science, music and RE trainees can get pounds 9,000. Plus there are "golden hellos" from pounds 2,500 to pounds 5,000 after completing an induction period. Jobs aren't guaranteed at the end of study but with the huge shortages there's usually a choice.

Visit www.dfes.gov.uk/go4itnow/ eligibility.shtml for eligibility details.

CONSTRUCTION

TRAINING agency ConstructionSkills and big employers like Mowlem, Balfour Beatty and Persimmon have launched a pounds 1million grant scheme.

This September, 60 students will receive up to pounds 9,000 to help with studies in architecture, construction project management and civil engineering among others.

They will get on-site experience and the possibility of a permanent job on graduation.

Students applying to study construction-related degree courses should apply for an Inspire Scholarship at www.beconstruc tive.co.uk/uni

THE ARMED FORCES

THE Army (www.army.mod.uk) grants more than 150 bursaries each year, worth an average pounds 6,000.

Typically the Army pays pounds 1,000 a year while students are at university and pounds 3,000 on arrival at Sandhurst.

Graduates must serve three years after the 44-week officer's training course at Sandhurst.

It's a minimum of six years for the Army Air Corps, due to the investment in pilot training. Students must join the University Officer Training Corps and agree an amount of paid training.

THE RAF (www.rafcareers .com) has sponsored 71 students from September this year. Bursaries for potential officers can pay up to pounds 4,000 per academic year. Students have to join the University Air Squadron, then the RAF on graduation- how long for depends on the job.

ROYAL Navy (www. royal-navy.mod.uk) bursaries range from pounds 1,500 to pounds 5,500pa for the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme to read engineering at Aston, Southampton, Newcastle upon Tyne and Loughborough. Students must sign up for service after their degree - how long for depends on the job.

WORK EXPERIENCE

ROLLS-Royce doesn't offer full sponsorship but it does take 100 students each year on paid work placements (www.rolls- royce.com/careers).

There are also 75 three-month paid placements. Engineering students are prime candidates but those in finance, purchasing and logistics are also accepted.

Around 40 per cent of students taking part come back to work for the firm on completing their education.

Rolls is encouraging more universities to include work placement on courses, so that students can get real experience and add an extra, practical element to their education.

GOLDEN HELLO

IF you failed to land a generous sponsor or bag a bursary, all is not lost - start looking for organisations offering the biggest golden hello.

Many large companies offer huge "signing-on" incentives to attract the best graduate talent. Even newly-qualified maths and science teachers can bag pounds 5,000 - a good lump sum to clear that debt.

Alison Hodgson, Chair of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, advises: "Graduates looking for golden hellos should concentrate on graduate positions in the banking sector.

"But don't forget, the reason the golden hello is there is because the banks are competing to attract the best graduates and that means the competition to get the job is going to be tough."

A degree without the worry

TOM Bright's university days have certainly been action-packed. Skiing in France, kayaking and rock climbing in Canada and learning to parachute. Oh and he's about to row the Atlantic from Tenerife to Antigua to try and beat the current crossing record of 40 days.

Yet he's still ended up with debts that are half those of his fellow students - but he's managed to land himself a good job straight away.

Tom, 22, from Haywards Heath in West Sussex, left Bristol University this year with a 2.2 degree in electronic engineering and got himself sponsored by the Army.

"It all started with a sixth-form scholarship which paid me pounds 1,500 a year while I studied at school. To get it I had to do a basic version of the regular Commissions Board Army selection, and on passing I had to sign a contract to say I would serve three years on completing my training."

Tom is sponsored by the Royal Signals, who guide him before Sandhurst, although he may not end up serving with them.

"I'm not sure where I'll end up when I've finished my training. You don't have to make that decision at the start which leaves all sorts of possibilities open to me."

As a bursar you get pounds 1,000 per academic year. In return you are encouraged to join an officer training corps, part of the TA, and you get paid to go on exercises at the weekends and holidays.

"In my first year I learned to ski in France. The second year I spent two months in Canada with the 7 (Para) RHA on exercises and did a week's adventure training. In my third year I learned to parachute. I've done loads of things I could never have afforded on a student budget.

"I've ended up with my debts under control. My pounds 10,000 debt might sound like a lot but, compared to other students who owe between pounds 15,000 and pounds 20,000 with no jobs to go to, I feel pretty good. Especially as when I start my training I get paid pounds 3,000 as part of the bursary, which will knock a chunk off my debt."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2005
Words:1254
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