Youngsters starting university in the West Midlands next month expect to graduate with record debts of £15,000.

The introduction of tuition top-up fees, tripling the amount students pay each year, has forced sixth formers to reassess the cost of getting a degree.

A survey by NatWest found youngsters in the region anticipate graduating in three years time with average debts of £14,927.

The projected figure represents a rise of more than £2,300 on last year's survey - the biggest forecasted leap in the country.

NatWest's annual study also underlined the increased actual financial burden facing students with average debt upon graduating continuing to climb.

West Midlands graduates currently leave university owing £13,835 - a 16 per cent increase on 2005 and above the national average of £13,252.

One worrying aspect of the survey is that almost a quarter - 24 per cent - of students in the region claim they have actually considered packing in their studies to pursue a full time job.

Paul Butters, area convenor of the National Union of Students, said: "In the West Midlands, it is showing that top-up fees are going to deter people from non-traditional backgrounds and those who would get the most out of university education.

"Last year there was another study that showed 56 per cent of people from low socio-economic backgrounds would not go to university because of the rising debt."

Mr Butters said the increased cost of a university education, which the Government insists will only be paid back once graduates start earning, risked thwarting a target to get half of all 18 to 30-year-olds into higher education.

"The 50 per cent target is a good goal to aim for," he said. "The NUS supports widening participation but doing that on one hand and bringing in tuition fees on the other is just a backward step."

NatWest's Student Money Matters survey revealed the amount of debt sixth formers anticipate they will amass by studying in the West Midlands was higher than in London.

Those planning to do a degree in Yorkshire expect to have the highest debt upon graduating, almost reaching £16,400. The North-west and Cumbria was next at £14,798.

Nearly 60 per cent of West Midland students were concerned about the amount of debt that they were in.

But there was some good news as well. The average starting salary for West Midlands students rose from £13,220 in 2005 to £13,506 this year.

And there was also a 16 per cent rise in graduates that had a job confirmed on graduation to more than a half.

Sixth formers due to study in the West Midlands expect to spend £32,332 for a three-year degree course, just below the national average of £33,512.

Despite these figures, 81 per cent of the region's 2006 intake believe going to university will help them with their future job prospects.

They are, however, likely to already work while studying. Nearly 90 per cent of this year's freshers expect to get a part-time job.

Currently, students supplement their income by an average of £71.32 per week. A negative result of this is that 33 per cent admit to having skipped lectures to work.