Scrapping student debt would boost Scotland's economy, claims the Scottish Nationalist Party.
Its education spokeswoman, Fiona Hyslop, said a generation of young people was delaying starting a family and was unable to buy a home because of the burden of debt. She also claimed Scotland had the lowest business start-up rate in much of Europe because young people were too afraid to take a financial risk.
The SNP says it will use a pound;100 million package to repay the student loan and endowment debts of all Scottish graduates who continue to live in Scotland and replace the current system with grants.
However, Allan Wilson, deputy minister for lifelong learning, said the real cost would be more than pound;1 billion. He claimed ditching the graduate endowment alone would cost pound;20 million and replacing the current loans system with grants would cost pound;160 million - without counting the cost of repaying graduates' debt.
Nationalists claim the move could be partially funded by reducing Scottish Enterprise.
Mrs Hyslop told The TESS: "The whole loans system was supposed to be self-financing. It is now taking about 13 to 14 years to pay it back. All that is coming back is pound;29 million a year. The debt will never get paid off at that rate and we think that investment in people will pay off economically."