Teenagers are starting to save early in some cases at the age of 11 to avoid student debt.
A poll of teenagers by child trust fund provider the Children's Mutual shows a third of 11 to 18-year-olds are saving for university.
As the threat of student debt grows, the poll found 42 per cent of those joining university this year plan to work part-time.
Which is just as well, as 78 per cent of parents said the thought the credit crunch would make it harder for them to fund their offspring through the corridors of academia.
David White, chief executive of The Children's Mutual, said: "It is great to see that today's teenagers are aware of the costs involved with going to university and are taking steps independently to try and avoid the high levels of debt that are now common amongst graduates.
"But the average cost of three years at university now sits at £40,400 - a huge amount of money for any teenager to find."
The average university debt is now £17,500.
With such high costs, parents are being urged to start financial preparations for university as early as possible.
"It is becoming increasingly apparent that we need a sea change in the way that many parents and their children fund university," said Mr White.
"For those approaching higher education in the next few years the government has a clear student finance package in place but for parents of younger children, one way to stave off the financial nightmares of the current university generation could be to start saving now."
The Coming of Wage Report was compiled by the Social Issues Research Centre for Children's Mutual also found today's students are resigned to debt.
Eighteen-year-olds came forward stating debt was "normal" and that "a culture of debt' [is] accepted as a normal part of life."
They also realised having such large debts from student loans made it easier to fall into further debt.