Belfast Telegraph

Extra £17m needed for student loans: Sir Reg

An extra £17m is needed to support student loans and grants in Northern Ireland, Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey has said.

More learners require financial support because of the economic downturn and the increased number of enrolments, he added.

The Minister is considering a report on student finances and is expected to submit proposals for consultation later this year.

Queen's University Belfast is among a group of UK universities suggesting graduates could be asked to start paying back loans earlier. The Russell Group also wants the money returned at a higher rate of interest.

Sir Reg said: "Because of the economic circumstances more of them are coming into the scope of getting support.

"It is an inescapable pressure, £17-£18m of a pressure." The Student Loans Company provides the actual cash to the student but the borrower is only required to bear a proportion of the cost of servicing the loan. The rest is borne by Sir Reg's Department for Employment and Learning.