Up to a third of Northern Ireland's intending 2000 university entrants have not yet applied for loans, Northern Ireland's minister for higher and further education, training and employment has revealed.
Demonstrating the new closeness Northern Ireland's devolved administration has with further and higher education, Sean Farren this week issued a plea to new entrants not to wait until receiving their A-level results before applying for loans.
Students who want to take out loans in Northern Ireland must complete a seven-step process, initially through the local education and library boards. All students should by now have completed the first three steps, but the boards estimate that some 5,000 entrants may not even have completed the first step.
Dr Farren, speaking as his department published a leaflet designed to guide students through the process, warned students that if they applied at the last minute, they ran the risk of not having money waiting for them when the new academic year started.
"I appreciate that many students may have decided to take a well-earned break now that they have finished their exams. But they should not leave things until the last minute," he said.
"The leaflet we are publishing today should encourage them to look carefully at their finances and work out how much they might need to borrow."
A spokesman for the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment said this was the first time such a leaflet had been published. It is available from JobCentres, schools and directly from the DHFETE.
He denied that the department should itself have issued the leaflet earlier, saying that applicants had already been warned of the various deadlines well in advance.