Claire Sugden, MLA for East Londonderry has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Employment and Learning of the introduction of a new top-up loan facility for part-time undergraduate students.
MLA Sugden said: “I welcome the announcement of a top-up loan facility for part-time undergraduate students.
Currently, they can only access means tested grant funding to help with fees. It is often not enough and many have to self-fund their studies. This financial barrier is discouraging many from enrolling at University.
The loan will support existing financial support and it will not be means tested making it more widely available. The new combination of grants and loans is unique here. It goes some way to bridging the gap in support which has existed between part-time and full-time students.
The numbers enrolled on part-time courses is increasing. Many people have employment and family commitments; others simply cannot afford to study full time. I hope this is a step towards recognising the importance of part-time studies as the only pathway to University studies for many.
Northern Ireland has a skills shortage. We need to do more to encourage people to enter the education system and progress into skilled employment. I represent a constituency with a University. I want my constituents to have greater access to higher education when it is on their doorstep.
I hope the option of a loan will encourage them to apply to the many part-time courses at Ulster University in Coleraine. This will not only enhance their knowledge and career prospects but it will help to grow our local skills and knowledge economy. “