Graduates auto-enrolled into pensions should be allowed to use their employers' contributions to pay off their debts, Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said.
UK students starting courses in 2012 could face average debts of £53,000 by the time they graduate, according to the Push University Guide, published today.
Annual average debts have risen 6.4% in the past year to £5,680, it said.
The problem of student debt will be exacerbated by the government's removal of the cap on tuition fees, allowing universities to charge up to £9,000 per year for teaching.
"The problem with pensions is that once the money is in, it is locked in for decades. For young people, that is a very off-putting thought," said Altmann.
"However, if they do not save in a pension, they lose the employer contribution. I believe that most advisers would suggest repaying debts before locking money away.
"Students should be given the option of being auto-enrolled into a student debt repayment plan as well as a pension and they can then choose."
Altmann added the government should decide whether or not to grant tax relief on student debt repayment plans.
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