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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Students' loans bill tops 1.8bn
students at degree ceremony
More than 350,000 borrowers have built up student loans in Scotland
More than 1.8bn in student loans is owed by borrowers who completed their higher education in Scotland, according to new figures.

The Student Loans Company said the debts had been built up by about 350,000 borrowers from Scotland or other EU countries.

It means each student now has average debts of about 5,300.

Education secretary Fiona Hyslop said the figures justified recent moves to lower student debt.

The amount loaned to students in Scottish higher education in the past year was 197.6m.

In the same period, from 2006 to 2007, the amount repaid by students to the company was just 51.5m.

1.8bn of state-sponsored debt is not good for the individuals concerned and not good from a public finance point of view
Fiona Hyslop
Education secretary

About 12.2m of this was paid earlier than required.

Of the 352,000 borrowers, 249,000 had started paying off their debt.

And in the last financial year, 8,600 people paid off in full at least one of their accounts.

The Scottish total of 1.846bn compared to a figure of 18bn in England.

In June, Ms Hyslop announced plans to scrap the graduate endowment.

This endowment replaced upfront tuition fees, which were abolished for Scottish students studying in Scotland from autumn 2000.

Poorer students

The money from the graduate endowment is paid into a central pot which is then used to fund bursaries to poorer students.

The latest figures showed 12.1m was loaned to students for the endowment in the last financial year.

Ms Hyslop said: "1.8bn of state-sponsored debt is not good for the individuals concerned and not good from a public finance point of view.

"The government believes that this is wrong. That is why, starting with the abolition of the graduate endowment, I will work to remove the burden of debt from our students."

The minister hopes to pass legislation at Holyrood on the graduate endowment by the start of April next year.

About 50,000 students would be among the first to benefit, she said.

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