Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 13:57 UK

Student finance 'shambles' anger

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Student Loans Company
The Student Loans Company is still receiving 5,000 applications per day

Students in England are increasingly worried they might not have their funding in place before term starts.

The Student Finance Company says it is receiving 5,000 more applications each day - and that it is still processing forms from last month.

Students are e-mailing the BBC News website, one saying it is a "shambles", another that she is "sick with worry".

One university, Oxford Brookes, says it is allowing students to defer rent payments until funding is resolved.

The Million+ group of new universities says the finance problems are "very disappointing".

"It is very important that students are not deterred from going to university by these delays," says the group's chief executive, Pam Tatlow.

'Panicking'

Some university courses have begun already and many more are set to begin in the next couple of weeks.

The Student Finance Company, which handles applications, will not say how many remain unprocessed - although last week the numbers processed suggested more than 100,000 were still to be completed.

On Friday, the company sought to handle more inquiries with a 50% increase in phone lines and extra staff.

Students and their families have been sending the BBC News website increasingly anxious e-mails over delays in arranging loans and grants and difficulties in getting a response from helplines.

These include mature students with children who are worried about childcare payments and parents who see their children's arrival at university as being clouded by fears over funding.

There are also claims of lost documents and conflicting information from advisers.

"I am furious," writes Graham in Felixstowe who says his funding application remains unresolved while his accommodation has to be paid. "What an utter shambles."

"I am really worrying and panicking about what I will do about my finances. I have to pay the first instalment of my tuition fees on Monday and I am really panicking, and have been sick with worry," writes Laura, starting a teacher training course in Oxford.

Terri, a parent of a student from Exeter who has to pay for his accommodation, says: "As a family we are beside ourselves with worry... As parents we cannot believe the incompetence we have experienced in our dealings with this body. We have exhausted ourselves and our savings and feel beaten up."

A mother of a student from Plymouth writes: "I am very concerned because without the loan there are no living expenses and no way to pay the rent."

Another Oxford student writes: "I started my PGCE a week ago now and I am still yet to receive any money from student finance. My application was sent in on time and was meant to be financially assessed but this process has nowhere near been completed."

Emergency funds

Universities are seeking to reassure students caught up in processing backlogs.

Oxford Brookes is saying students can register for courses despite delays over funding - and they can defer payments for university accommodation.

A spokeswoman also says that emergency funds will be available for students.

The university has received calls from worried students and wants to send a message that help will be available.

Million+ has criticised the Student Loans Company for failing to respond to the volume of applications.

"The additional demand from students starting in 2009 can hardly be a surprise and the SLC should have staffed up to meet the expectations of both students and universities," said chief executive, Pam Tatlow.

Universities UK expressed their sympathy to those "in the difficult situation of not having received their student support before they start term".

"Universities do have measures in place - such as the Access to Learning Fund - to support those students who face serious financial difficulties through no fault of their own. Students should contact their individual university for details."

Derek Ross, deputy chief executive of the Student Loans Company, has promised: "Everyone who applied on time should be paid on time."

A spokeswoman from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says that ministers are continuing to monitor problems.


Have you had problems with your student loan or grant application? Send us your experiences.

The whole Student Finance Company is an utter disgrace. You can't get hold of anyone on the phone. Students and parents are at breaking point. You can't find money from nowhere. Our son's circumstances changed and we filled in all the necessary "change of circumstances" forms for his second year at Oxford in plenty of time for it to be dealt with. Now with two parents out of work thanks to the economic situation he does not how he will make out. His college rents have increased this year. He is worried sick and so are we! We have heard absolutely nothing regarding his new loan situation from the Student Loan Company. Emails, letters are never answered and phone calls are just cut off. If the Government bailed out banks, where are they now for the students?
anne,

my son started at Gloucester University last sunday and we are still waiting on funding confirmation. I chased SLC last week and was told that me and my wife's P60's etc were still being processed and would not get a answer for at least another 3 to 4 weeks.
S.Lambert, Yate

I'm about to go to Newcastle University. The way Student Finance have handled my financing or should i say the way they haven't is quite frankly absolutely disgusting. Not only has it taken me about 4 days to even be able to get through on the phone lines, but when I did manage to get through the operator did not have a clue. I am so sick of student finance, they also told me that they had sent me an email the previous day about my account, two weeks later i am still to receive this said email. It has caused so much stress, my family have very little income because my Dad has just been made redundant and I know I won't get my funds though on time, so I am really worried now and getting very very annoyed. It almost makes me wonder why I bothered.
Sarah, Lancaster, Lancashire

I have been trying to sort out my son's maintenance grant through student finance I have sent information to them which they have lost, they are now saying they need the information again before they can process the grant. Their website is constantly crashing and today I have tried 10 times to call them and instead of the usual 45 minute wait there is a patronising message telling me how busy they are and to try again later. I am a lone parent with one son already at university and if this grant does not come through on time my son will be unable to pay his rent.
siobhan, Northampton England

I'm set to start my first year of an architecture degree on Wednesday and I have no idea whether or not I will have any money from the student finance company. I have been trying to contact them for over 3 weeks by phone to sort out this quagmire of theirs. I have no idea when my money will arrive, if it does and I applied for finance in February. The Website is useless and doesn't help; it tells you to call a telephone number. The call centre then says its busy, try the website and promptly hangs up. There's no e-mail address that I can see, I have resorted to posting them an angry letter. In this day and age where they themselves what to do all the paperwork on the web to not have an e-mail address is simply insulting. I'm beyond anger in fact I think its some sort of twisted joke, I'm actually laughing out of sheer frustration. Due to their complete lack of competence they are jeopardizing our futures. I want to see action taken, there are people to blame here and they need to be found. Oh and to top it of the first instalment of money for rent on my student accommodation came out of my bank account this morning. I had to increase the size of my overdraft just to cover it. I'm now set to head off to university in debt and it looks like its only going to get worse.
Dawa, Cheltenham

I sent my application for student finance at the start of June. Whilst I have confirmation of the loans for fees and maintenance (it has not gone unnoticed that money that has to be paid back has been the first to processed) I've still not received confirmation for my grant. As a result of this my university is unaware I am eligible for their bursary. Without the bursary and grant I will have no money to live off when I start university. The helpline has been incredibly unhelpful merely telling me to wait a few more weeks. I'm lucky as my course doesn't start until October. But it's still an additional unneeded worry on top of everything else I have to sort for university. I'm the first generation in my family to go to university and it's stupid things like this that make it so difficult and put people going to university.
Hayley, Manchester, UK

As a student aiming to go to university in less than two weeks, the organisation of student finance has left me totally shocked, having called them 2/3 months ago to check my application was complete i was assured that id done everything correctly and that i would receive my notification letter would arrive in time. When i called again a couple of days ago worried at the lack of response from them, they then informed me my application actually wasn't correct but they needed an additional form from me that hadnt been mentioned earlier. It has left me angry and worried as it is a small task that could have been done very quickly if i'd had the information, im not going to be waiting about a month for my loans.
Natalie, Driffield

My student finance application was sent in right back in March when the system first opened and I have yet to hear of either the amount I am getting or when I will recieve it. During numerous phonecalls I have been told that I asked not to be income assessed, even when I had a photocopy of the form in question right in front of me which clearly stated that I did.

I start university on Monday and have been told that an assessor will ring me today - it's 5pm and no call; next year I shall be filling out all my forms by hand and not online.
Abigail, Highworth, England

I applied for my student loan in early June and I received my loan at the beginning of September. The application was wrong and now, It looks like I can't start university because I couldn't live off what they sent me. I'm tens of thousands of Pounds in debt and now it may all be for nothing.
Kris, Bolton, UK

'Shambles' is an understatement. Despite having filled in the online forms correctly i was horrified to receive a letter telling me that i would not receive either a tuition or a maintainance loan. After many attempts i finally got through to the call centre who told me to fill out paper versions of forms that i'd already filled out online! Apparently i'd done everything right, but it hadn't 'gone through'. The most irritating this is that one i finally got to speak to someone, it seemed easy to sort out. Doing the whole thing online was supposed to save time and effort but the whole process has been horrendous. Give me the paper forms and i'll do it myself.
Nicola, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I sent in my application on time. While I appreciate that NOW there is a backlog of several weeks, there wasn't one when I applied. It still took Student Finance England on average 4-6 weeks to advise of any additional bits of paper they required. My application hasn't even been dealt with in terms of crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's as far as they're concerned, let alone have they told me when I can expect any information about my funding, or the funding itself.
Kay, Fleet, UK

My daughter is due to attend Reading University in two weeks time. We completed the application form online. We received notification last Friday advising us that although my daughter has been awarded the tution and maintence loans she would not be receiving because we had said we didn't want them. I had saved my online application and checked that we had clicked the correct boxes. When i got through to Student Finance England they advised me that the boxes had not been ticked. I can only assume somewhere in cyber space someone took the ticks out. We now have to complete two new forms for my daughter to get the loans. I think Student Finance England are a complete shambles. Not only is it difficult to get through on the telephone but the info online is not up to date.
Nicky, Bath

my daughter starts her course at Rochester uni today (14.9.09) and still has no loan or grant paid into her bank account, her accommodation fees were due on the 02.09.09, but until she receives her money she cant pay them, she has a finance letter stating her grant and loan will be paid into her account today!! we have sent her a box of food and supplies to tide her over but this is like running two homes and with only one and half wages coming in it is just ludicrous, i have spent the last ten days trying to contact the student finance to no avail and today they may have changed the message on the machine but the answer is still the same. I give up!!!
belinda, lowestoft, suffolk

i start university next week. I have 3 children under 5 five to support whilst im studying. I was sent a letter last week telling me i was not entitled to financial help with childcare costs. After holding for over half an hour to speak to someone on the telephone i was told they have lost my evidence to support my application. My 2 year old is supposed to start attending nursery next week at my uni. I cannot afford the £140 per week with out my loans and grants. How am supposed to prepare my daughter for nursery next week when i dont even know if we can afford to send her. This situation is causing so much stress to students and their families. Something needs to be done so this never happens again.
hannah, birmingham

I have had to apply 3 times as my first 2 applications were simply "lost" and "deleted" despite one being an online application and one being paper. They also temporarily lost my birth certificate and for 2 months my details were left with the wrong department. When I asked them to move my detials to the correct department I was told this would be done, but a month later I heard nothing, so in the end I had to phone this department myself and ask them to do it.

This process is a sham and the staff all tell you something completely different. This is such a big deal for some students and the assumption of SFE that ALL parents can afford to shell out thousands for their childs university life is sickening! I sent everything by recorded delivery but still everytime I called to check whether my forms had been recieved, I couldn't be told.

I applied for funding for a reason, because it's the only way I can afford to go. I began applying in February, and still don't have a confirmed loan. I move in to my halls in 5 days and fear that if I don't hear something by then, I won't be able to go.

Olivia, Sussex

I applied for my student loans in April got fully approved. My first payment was meant to b on the 14th of September, I have not received any money in my account and can NOT get hold of student finance at all. I am at college I have no money and can not afford my accommodation and travel much longer. I'm 21 and finding this Very stressful right now instead of worrying about college etc I'm having money worries when I shouldn't be as I was approved so long ago. Please help if you can.
Antony, London, Uk

Well done for Mr Lammy for keeping in daily contact with the SLC - I have been unable to speak to them for weeks!
Lee, Droof, Kernow

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SEE ALSO
Students demand action on loans
11 Sep 09 |  Education
Problems hit student loans system
10 Sep 09 |  Education
Q&A: Student fees
09 Jul 09 |  Education

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