Education: Students apply for more loans

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The number of students applying for government loans rose from 59 per cent to 64 per cent of those eligible in the year 1996-1997.

The Student Loans Company annual report for the past academic year shows that just over 590,000 loans were paid out, an increase over the previous year of around 30,000 borrowers.

Three years ago, the proportion of eligible students taking out loans was less than half.

There was a 3 per cent increase in the number of borrowers who were allowed to defer repayment of their loans. Just over 9 per cent of borrowers who had not applied to defer repayment and who had missed two or more consecutive payments were officially classified as being in default.

The company says that it is paying out loans more quickly. The percentage paid out within 21 days of an application went up up from 96 per cent to 99.7 per cent.

Around pounds 877m was paid out in loans and the average amount of money borrowed rose from pounds 1,252 to pounds 1,487.

The student loan company, set up in 1989, is the non-profit-making organisation which administers the loan scheme.

Ministers are proposing to collect future loan repayments through the Inland Revenue.