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Student debt passes the 2bn mark

12 June 08 15:24 GMT

The debts of students in Scotland have passed the £2bn mark, according to new figures from the Student Loans Company.

The total outstanding balance - including loans not yet due for repayment - was £2.052.5bn, a rise of 11% compared with the previous year.

The average outstanding balance per student was £5,550.

There were 370,000 borrowers at the end of the last financial year and nearly three quarters of those accounts were in the process of being repaid.

The company also said the total amount lent to higher education students during the financial year 2007 to 2008 was £212.8m - a rise of 8% on the previous year.

The NUS in Scotland said it was not surprised by the figures.

'Hardship'

Its president, James Alexander, added: "NUS Scotland remains concerned about the increased reliance on borrowing as a way to fund students' education and we will continue to lobby the government for a fairer funding system which allows anyone to access education, regardless of background or financial circumstances."

Labour's higher education spokeswoman, Claire Baker, called the figures "damning".

She added: "The SNP's manifesto promised to dump the debt. But these statistics show an increase of over £200m in the amount owed by students to the government."

But a Scottish Government spokesperson said that student debt was a "£2bn legacy" from Labour at Westminster and Labour and the Liberal Democrats at Holyrood.

The spokesperson added: "This is a nonsensical attack, given that one of the flagship policies of the government this year has been the abolition of the graduate endowment fee.

"Labour voted in parliament to retain the fee and if they had succeeded tens of thousands of graduates would have seen £2,300 added to their student debt."

The Conservatives' education spokesman, Murdo Fraser, accused Labour and the SNP of "taking pot-shots at each other when this troubling issue is still yet to be resolved".

The Liberal Democrats have demanded an apology from the SNP over rising student debt.

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