Wonga student loans criticised by NUS
Payday loan company Wonga has been branded as "incredibly irresponsible" for targeting students in pages on its website.
The National Union of Students (NUS) said it was wrong for the company to push the short-term loans - with a typical APR of 4,214% - as part of a student's everyday financial planning.
But the company said applications would undergo rigorous checks.
An official study said that these loans could prove useful for some people.
Typically someone will borrow a few hundred pounds from a payday loan firm for a short time, then pay it back when they receive their next slice of income.
The industry is regulated, but there has been some criticism of the cost of these loans.
The NUS has criticised marketing on the Wonga website which promotes the loans for occasional emergencies or unexpected events. The website suggests that large value official student loans can encourage people to live beyond their means.
"It is highly irresponsible of any company to suggest to students that high-cost short-term loans be a part of their everyday financial planning," said Pete Mercer, NUS vice-president.
"Students should think long and hard before choosing payday loans over any other form of borrowing, including government-backed student loans. If students are struggling to make ends meet there is often other support available, and anyone worried about their finances should talk to their students' union or financial advisers at their university.
"Wonga should immediately withdraw this predatory [offer], which contains information that appears to be inaccurate, and is aimed at financially vulnerable young people."
In response, a spokesman for Wonga said that, to get a loan, students would need a regular income.
"Our decisions about any students who do choose to apply are based on the same rigorous checks we perform on all applications, but we do not believe working, adult students should be excluded from a popular credit option," he said.
He also denied that the company was "actively targeting" students.
The Department for Business said that borrowers should be aware of the costs involved with any form of credit, considering their own financial circumstances.
"The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is clear that lending money to people who will clearly struggle to repay it, or where that product is clearly unsuitable for that individual is irresponsible," a spokesman said.
The government believes that official student loans to eligible English students should cover their tuition costs, and contribute towards their living costs while at university.
Despite the negative publicity surrounding payday loan firms, the OFT has said that payday loans and other high-cost credit businesses - such as pawn brokers or home-credit lenders - should not have their interest charges restricted.
It concluded that they provided a useful service for some people who would not otherwise be able to borrow legitimately and who might thus be forced to borrow from illegal loan sharks.