from guardian.co.uk - Ministers underestimated how many universities would charge £9,000 fees – and now face huge bill to fund student loans. Students protesting against tuition fees in Trafalgar Square last year. MPs has now warned that student numbers may have to be cut because of the take-up among universities for the £9,000 maximum charge. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Tough quotas on student numbers may have to be introduced to avoid the creation of a spending black hole under plans to raise tuition fees at English universities to a maximum of £9,000, a powerful committee of MPs has warned. Ministers underestimated how many universities would charge the maximum fee and now face an annual bill to fund the interest-free student loans that is "several hundred million pounds" higher than anticipated, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reports.
The current balance of outstanding loans – £24bn – is expected to rise to £70bn by 2015-16, the report says. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, said: "At present, more universities intend to charge higher fees than the department had expected. If the universities' plans to widen participation are approved by the Office for Fair Access, this will leave a substantial funding gap which will either require further cuts in higher education or further resources from the Treasury." Whitehall sources told the Guardian they would not know the true cost of the policy until students had turned up at freshers' week in 2012.