The government is reviewing hardship loans and access funds following concerns that the system does not meet the needs of mature students.
It has set up a team of civil servants and academics to conduct the review.
From this academic year, first-years on the verge of leaving due to financial problems could get an extra Pounds 250 hardship loan from the Student Loans Company. But a survey of 39 universities showed that students did not take out as many hardship loans as the government had expected.
Pamela Bell-Ashe, former chair of the Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education, said: "For students in real difficulties Pounds 250 doesn't go anywhere near solving the problem. We have had serious reservations about the hardship loan scheme which were borne out over the past year."
Students must take out a hardship loan before they became eligible for access funds.