The SNP this week unveiled plans to replace student loans with grants, partly based on the claim that loans cost more and the reintroduction of grants would save pound;60 million a year.
Fiona Hyslop, the party's education spokesperson, commented: "Far from costing the Executive less, a combination of low repayment rates, long repayment periods and interest charges actually make loans massively more expensive than the equivalent grant."
Based on parliamentary answers and official figures, the SNP estimates that pound;1 billion is owed by students and graduates to the Executive. Last year, some pound;227 million was paid out in loans, while just pound;26 million was received in payments.
It has been taking an average of 13 years for students to repay their loans, instead of the five to seven years envisaged when the system was introduced.