The Sutton Trust has told the government that university tuition fees should be means-tested.
The education charity said a survey it carried out with Ipsos Mori found that 65 per cent of 11-16 year olds have concerns about the financial burden of university.
An average of 17 per cent of those surveyed said that cost was a crucial factor when deciding whether to attend university or not, although this figure increased to 23 per cent when teenagers were from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The concern felt by students over cost was belied by the numbers planning to attend university, however. More than four fifths (81 per cent) said that they intended to go to university while a further 5 per cent (86 per cent) considered that a degree was important to “get on in life”.
The exact source of financial worry varied among the teenagers polled. For just over one quarter (28 per cent) tuition fees, raised in 2012 from £3,000 to £9,000 annually, were the primary concern.
Almost one fifth (19 per cent) were most worried about living costs while 18 per cent felt that their financial worries stemmed from not being able to earn a living while they studied.
Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Graduates face debts of over £40,000 with the higher fees and many will be paying for their university studies into their 50s.
“While there may have been some uplift in university applications this year, student numbers are not yet back to 2010 levels.
“We are urging the government to means-test university fees, as used to be the case, so that those from low and middle-income families pay less for tuition.”