Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Universities 'bail out students'

'I'm still waiting for my student loan'

Three-quarters of universities in England have had to bail out students with emergency funding because of delays to loans, suggests a BBC survey.

Universities say continuing problems with the loans system have forced them to spend their own cash on students.

"We are angry on behalf of our students who have been badly hit by this," says University of Portsmouth Vice-Chancellor John Craven.

Figures suggest there could still be 70,000 students caught in delays.

The Conservatives say that ministers must "get a grip" on the problem - and the UCU lecturers' union said the unresolved difficulties were "totally unacceptable" and "shambolic".

Weeks after the start of term, the survey reveals the extent of the problems caused by difficulties with the delivery of loans and grants.

Food and rent

Among the 58 universities responding to the survey, 49 reported increased hardship payments to students compared with last year, and 43 attributed the increases to the loans system.

The survey found that on average universities had paid £44,000 to support hundreds of students needing money for items such as rent, food and course materials.

STUDENT LOAN DELAYS
4 out of 5 universities increased emergency payments
3 out of 4 blame student loan problems
Based on responses from more than half of universities

Professor Craven has warned that this has been a particularly tough problem for students from poorer families experiencing higher education for the first time.

The University of Portsmouth says it has had to pay £80,000 to students waiting for their loans and grants to arrive.

One has been first-year social work student Victoria Kaiogo, who says she applied in February and has been given a loan of £200 while she waits for her money to arrive.

Fellow fresher and business student Casey Orrin applied in March and has been told he will get his money after Christmas. He has only been able to pay his rent thanks to a university loan.

The BBC News website has received thousands of e-mails complaining about delays over the loans and difficulties in getting information from the Student Loans Company.

Many have been from parents saying they have had to cover their children's expenses because expected funding had not arrived.

The National Union of Students has called for the chief executive of the Student Loans Company to resign.

In the House of Lords, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said there was no excuse for the service the company had provided.

The Student Loans Company has apologised for the problems - which the government is investigating.

"We are working hard to ensure that this does not happen again next year and are working on a number of measures including offering clear advice and guidance including on application deadlines, simplifying the application process and increasing our call handling capacity," said a statement from the company.

Figures released last week showed there were still tens of thousands of applications being processed - raising the prospect that the loans problems might not be resolved by the end of term.

The Conservatives' university spokesman David Willetts said the government was failing to take responsibility.

"Ministers urgently need to get a grip on the crisis so that students are not forced to drop out and those that start university in January get their money on time."


To send comments please use the form below.

I'm a mature student supporting my child, a 16 year old student. I applied for my finance in May, it's now November 18th and there's no sign of any payments, we just keep being fobbed off time and again. With no other income, we are behind with all of our bills, and about to be evicted. I am having to decide this week whether to even carry on with my degree or to give up now and try to find work so we can at least keep a roof over our heads.

I returned to education to try to find a better job and improve out lives. Instead it has become a living hell.
Rachel, York

My daughter is still waiting for her student grant she has been waiting 6 months now and we have sent all the information they required, we were informed yesterday that they have lost everything! We will now have to reapply and I will also have to contact the inland revenue for a new P60, this will delay it further and without funding my daughter may have to leave university, I think it is shocking that the government have allowed this to happen, when will they ever learn that the mistakes they make now with this generation will effect the votes they get in the next election.
Louise, Cirencester

I'm still waiting despite the fact that I applied on 3rd June 2009....sent off all the relevant information as requested via the online application form. SFE wrote asking for more information - that had not been requested with the original application - at the end of July. This was promptly sent back to them. I have now had to take a payment break on my mortgage due to the maladministration at a cost of £99 to myself. It is an absolute outrage, and they are still not keeping to their promises.
Louise, Darwen

My daughter has been at university since the end of September and still no sign of any money to pay her rent or fees or living expenses. As the phone in her room takes incoming calls only, and her mobile is texts only she asked me to ring them yet again. The young man I spoke to would not divulge any information without her permission so we are back to square one. The site is just as helpful, as all it says is no payments. For all I know they could be waiting for information from me, but as has happened in every call I have made to them, they don't even ask for mine or my daughter's name. I just think its delaying tactics and I have never had experience of such an unhelpful apathetic organisation. Considering it is government run I can't see why they cannot tell me if there is a problem or not. It is like getting blood out of a stone whilst banging one's head against a brick wall. It seems a bit late in the day for them to be employing more staff, this should have been done months ago. As a single mother on a low wage, with 15 year old twins to sort out as well, I am not in a good enough financial situation to pay this short fall. We were so pleased when my daughter got her place at university but this situation is casting a cloud over it. I'd just like know when we can expect the situation to be resolved as many of the other students she knows have received their payments. She has had the letter approving the payments so I can't see what the hold up is, how many people do they need to write a cheque out?
Janette, Stockport

Still waiting for student loan, have phoned many times to find out progress of my application only to be lied to repeatedly. They have now asked for my children's birth certificates and have no knowledge of my tax credit form which I sent with my birth certificate, which I have had back. they say it could be another 6 to 8 weeks for them to sort it because of backlog of mail. I am in a total mess financially and with xmas round the corner making it worse

Amanda, Manchester

I still have not received my loan despite numerous phone calls to the loans company (though I have only managed to get through a handful of times) and it is now mid-November. I am a first year student studying in London and therefore subject to very high rent, i have loaned the first instalment of my father but I am really worried about where my next instalment is coming from as my parents cannot afford to give me any more money and my job wont cover it as well as travel and food. I have no money for text books which is really proving detrimental to my studies as the library has been ransacked by those in a similar situation to myself. The most recent time i contacted the company i was told that my application has been stopped as somebody has the same ni number as me, a fact which the slc did not feel was appropriate to share with me. As if having my application halted completely unbeknownst to me wasn't bad enough, I will now be delayed up to a further 4 weeks whilst i send proof of my ni number and the slc cannot even reassure me that the other person has been notified of the problem as every operator i speak to seems to be completely bamboozled by the whole situation. This whole process has been nothing but stressful and tiresome from the off and every operator I speaks to gives completely contradictory information to the previous one. The only person who is going to benefit from this mess is the employer of my local strip club, where at least I'll get paid up front and on time.
hannie, Liverpool

Our son is in his first year at uni, applied in May. Weeks later were told everything going through ok. Then told they had not received all the paperwork by one person, when another said it was all there and being processed. Many phone calls later still none the wiser and still no finances. We are low income family and can not support him financially ourselves, He is considering coming back home and all because of the SLC. It is time something is done we are disgusted at the level of incompetence
Jan, Gosport

I appreciate the individual cases where Rent, Fees and books are needed for the students day to day needs of a university life. The objections i have, and share with many others, is when the students complain that they have not got money to go and do "all the other things that the other students are doing"... loosely translated - "i can't go out and spend my loan on excessive amounts of alcohol, take-aways, DVD's, Games consoles and other frivolous purchases". I heard on Radio 1 this morning that a student had to spend time in not being able to do the said "other things" and eating food he did not want to. A harsh experience of reality that this is life for a growing number of UK families. Maybe we could look at the end of the academic year at the pass rate compared to previous years and see a positive effect on grades due to not being able to waste time at the bottom of a pint of snakebite...

Matt, Portsmouth

I think you are really out of touch, Matt. Not sure whether you actually go to university or whether you just make assumptions without looking into the facts. Maybe you are just one of those people who comes from a family with money and doesn't need loans. None of my business and I don't actually care but, Yes, students spend their money on such wasteful things but they have to eat and their accommodation has to be paid for. As it is, the loans/grants don't cover the full cost, especially for first years where the cost of accommodation in halls is often higher than for students in later years renting rooms. The food issue is a possible point. Students can eat reasonably healthily and cheaply and should learn to do so but that doesn't take away the cost of accommodation, etc.
Alison, Essex

I applied for my student finance in March - whilst the loan has come through (although it is only barely enough to pay for my accommodation) I was still waiting for confirmation of my grant. I phoned up Student Finance, only to be informed that they had lost all of the relevant forms/information - so I would have to essentially apply for the grant again. Two weeks later the forms still had not arrived so I phoned back up, only to be told that they had probably not been posted! I am still yet to receive the forms and have no idea when my grant will come through - it is stressful enough being a first year university student, but given that I do not come from a 'rich' family the financial strain adds further worries.
Sarah, Nottingham



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'I'm still waiting for my student loan'
18 Nov 09 |  Education

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