What price a university degree?

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It's been a tough few years for university students and their families but things look like getting worse for some seeking to further their education.

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Yesterday the Government announced that it would back proposals to put an end to the annual cap on higher education charges, leaving universities to set their own prices.

And furthermore those who are from middle-income families will see their repayments soar.

With degree course fees expected to hit £12,000, some students face the prospect of leaving university with £36,000 in debt - and that's not including what they will fork out for the cost of living.

In London, for example, graduates could even end up with a debt of £90,000 - hardly an incentive to attend university.

Though graduates will not have to begin repaying the debt until their income reaches £21k, those who earn £60,000 or more will be forced to pay back £68 a week which will more than likely mean those who don't achieve a high income continue to pay off the debt for most of their working lives.

Critics say that this is "the final nail in the coffin for an affordable university degree for many ordinary families" and, as Sally Hunt of the University and College Union told the Daily Express, the cost is liable to "put many of our most able young people off".

However, the proposals do suggest that young people from low-income backgrounds should have access to support grants and there would be no repayments for those with salaries under £21,000.

But for the middle classes, who have already been hit by new Child Benefit rules, the prospect of life-long debt may well mean they avoid university all together.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust education charity, said last night: "The danger is that higher fees for the most prestigious university courses will make them the preserve of the most privileged."

What do you think? Will higher fees mean that university becomes the "preserve of the privileged" once again? Leave your comments below...