After a ‘suspicious’ rise in the number of Bulgarians and Romanians enrolling in UK colleges, the Universities Minister, David Willetts, has suspended loans from the Student Loans Company (SLC) to students from the two countries.
Under the rules EU students can get one loan of up to £6,000 to pay for tuition fees and another of up to £3,400 to cover their living expenses but, to qualify for the latter they have to have lived in the UK for a minimum of three years.
There are worries that a number of students from Romania and Bulgaria may be applying for loans when they are not qualified, especially as the Telegraph reports that 5,500 of them have already received their first cost of living loan instalments, which is a large increase over last year. It is reported that 1 in 6 loan applications now comes from one of these two countries.
The amount of money British taxpayers are forking out to EU students to study in the UK has been slammed as a "costly disgrace" by UKIP Spokesman Tim Aker, who said:
"As applications for vocational courses at Colleges have less stringent checks than for University places there is a very real possibility that Romanian and Bulgarian students are using it as an easy route to get handouts from the UK government with no intention of ever repaying the money.
"Weaknesses in the residency check process are further cause for alarm as they will surely be exploited by others as the Department for Business faces a £80million black hole due to the surge in College applications.
"Student loan bills for EU students have soared above £100 million and in many cases, this money is never recouped once foreign students go back to their country of origin.
"The British government should be focusing on getting 1 million of our own youngsters back to work ahead of handing out student grants and loans to those who choose to come here. Of course, inside the EU, this is impossible."