Tory plans to sell off student loans to the private sector would make students better off and give most help to those in greatest need, Brian Monteith, the party's Scottish education spokesman, has claimed.
Universities and students have expressed caution at any move towards privatisation of loans. But on a positive note they back any plans to help financially stretched students and to raise thresholds for loans and the Scottish Executive's pound;2,000 "endowment" repayment.
Mr Monteith, adding a Scottish dimension to the Tories' new funding policies, said the combined effect of commercialising loans and offering tax breaks would be to make the average four-year graduate pound;100 better off, while a three-year graduate would be pound;1,000 better off.
Starting salaries for reayment of loans and endowments would be raised to pound;20,000. "We want to break the link between students and the income of their parents and target any subsidy to those earning a certain amount after they leave university," Mr Monteith said.
An NUS Scotland spokesman said: "We have opposed the introduction of market rates in the past because it would place even greater burdens on the least able to repay student loans. Unless it becomes a detailed policy proposal, it is difficult to say whether the tax breaks would compensate for the market rates."
David Caldwell, director of Scottish Universities, also wanted more detail, particularly on claims that the sell-off would release pound;3.5 billion, followed by pound;1.6 billion every year by doing the same for new loans.