The amount loaned to Northern Irish students to pay university tuition fees rose to £173m in 2014/15.
That is an increase from £154m in 2013/14 and £130m in 2012/13.
The average amount loaned to each local student also rose to £4,350 in 2014/15 from £3,930 in 2013/14.
The figures have been released by the Student Loans Company (SLC), which is government owned.
While local students currently pay tuition fees of £3,805 at Queen’s University and Ulster University, they can pay fees of up to £9,000 if they study in England, Scotland or Wales.