Student debt double what it was eight years ago
Students in Northern Ireland are now saddled with twice as much debt as they were eight years ago, it has been claimed.
Students who started paying student loans back in 2014-2015 graduated owing an average of £18,160 - double that of those who started repaying loans in 2008, according to Ireland's student union.
Around 56% of students surveyed by the NUS-USI do not believe their degree was worth it.
This is the stark message delivered by student leaders ahead of a major conference this week.
NUS-USI President Fergal McFerran said fees are a massive deterrent to potential students and has challenged Stormont to invest in students when the new Assembly is formed next month.
He added that if an end to tuition fees and inflationary increases in student support are not delivered, the economy here could struggle to attract new jobs because fewer people may be able to afford to enrol in university and college courses and gain skills or qualifications.
Students pay tuition fees of £3,805 a year at Queen's University and Ulster University, but can pay up to £9,000 if they study in England, Scotland or Wales. The Student Loans Company revealed last year that the amount loaned to Northern Irish students to pay university tuition fees rose to £173m in 2014/15 - an increase from £154m in 2013/14 and £130m in 2012/13.
The average amount loaned to each local student also rose to £4,350 in 2014/15 from £3,930 in 2013/14.
The warning comes ahead of the NUS-USI conference today.