Financial education for students: they don’t just learn it in a lecture hall.

Every time we think the great tuition fees debate has run out of steam, a new issue springs up. And the latest might just be the most important of all: confusion.

The Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information recently conducted a survey in which they asked 2,000 adults about their understanding of next year’s tuition fees system. The results are alarming. Six in ten said they had little or no understanding of how the new system would work. 26% wrongly thought students would have to pay fees upfront. And more than half said that the rises made university a less attractive option.

The results seem to suggest that the Government has done a poor job of communicating the changes. So it’s just as well that’s Martin Lewis is heading up the Independent Taskforce that carried out the survey. Lewis has built a career on demystifying personal finance. It’s clear that he feels passionately about his latest challenge: tackling the myths and misunderstandings about the costs of higher education. As he says: “if students don’t understand the true cost, how can they decide if it’s worth it?”

To help students, Lewis has written a Guide to the 2012 changes, which can be found here. His advice is a perfect example of the role the private sector can play in helping students get through university. This is something we feel strongly about too. Through our student-facing website DIGS, we were the first student accommodation provider to use social media to communicate directly with our customers. For a long time now, we’ve used blogs, Facebook and Twitter to help students with their financial management – everything from budgeting advice and economical cooking tips to helping them reduce their energy consumption.

It’s important to remember that for many students, university is their first time away from home. So we need to help them understand that studying is no longer just about getting a degree. It’s also about managing debt, and making sure that the short-term gains of their university years – which should be some of the most rewarding and exciting of their lives – aren’t damaging their long-term financial futures.

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