The findings, unveiled in the Unite Students Insight Report: Finance also show over 10,000 applicants plan to use payday lenders once they get to university – risking APR rates of up to 1,500%.
Around 26,400 students and 5,400 postgraduates are resorting to payday lenders, totaling 31,800.
University of the Arts London graduate Audrey Jordan, 23, fell into using payday loan companies after losing contact with her parents at the start of her first year.
Audrey, from West Sussex, found herself £6,000 in debt to a variety of payday loan providers. She said: “The finance I had didn’t meet the cost of living while I was a student. London is such an expensive place to live.
“Payment from the jobs I relied on was not regular, so I used payday loan companies to help out when I was waiting to get my money.
“It all stacked up, until I woke up one morning and realised I couldn’t possibly pay the money back – there was just no way. I was terribly worried about bailiffs knocking on the door and being dragged to court.
“I would say to students thinking about using a payday loan provider ‘take my advice: do anything you can to avoid it’.”
Unite Students head of HE engagement and student services Jenny Shaw said: “It is hard to imagine how taking out a payday loan is the right choice for any student looking to get their finances back on track.
“If a student is struggling financially there are a wide range of options and support services available. Universities and some students’ unions have student finance advisors who offer an excellent service.
“It’s worrying to see a greater proportion of applicants believe payday lenders are the way forward. We can only hope that expectation doesn’t turn into a reality.”
Each year Unite Students carries out a survey of student behaviours and attitudes, with 8,500 responses this year.