PLANS to introduce top-up fees will leave university students facing crippling debts, fear education chiefs.
Staff at Sir John Deane's College have slammed the proposals to allow England's universities to charge tuition fees of up to £3,000-a-year.
They will get the controversial powers from September 2006, if the Higher Education Bill is passed by parliament.
Dozens of Labour MPs are against the proposals, which are also opposed by the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and students' groups.
The Department for Education and Skills said universities would be freed to charge anything from nothing to £3,000 for courses.
But Tass Sgouros, director of student progression guidance at Sir John Deane's in Northwich, said: 'Based on existing experience, any increase in fees will inevitably increase the like-lihood of debt which, according to government sources, could be as high as £30,000. This debt will have a negative effect on students' perception of higher education.
'The White Paper makes provision for more financial help for low income students, but low-to-middle income families could be hit hard. The biggest worry is for students who, for any reason, do not complete their course. They will still have to pay the fees but will not enjoy the benefits of graduate pay.
'One very worrying fact that has emerged is that to avoid repaying the debt, a number of students opt for bankruptcy. This can have a long-lasting effect on their future career, limiting the type of jobs they can take.
'The hope is that under pressure from MPs, parents and students, even if the government don't fundamentally rethink their proposals, they might dilute them and reduce the amount - £3,000 - that universities would be allowed to charge.'
Andrew Jones, college principal, added: 'It saddens me that the generation of politicians who derived such benefits from the principle that access to higher education should be based on academic merit, rather than ability to pay, now seem set on denying those benefits to future generations of students.'