Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Student loans delays continue over Christmas

By Angela Harrison
Education reporter, BBC News

Students in lecture
Next year's applications have been delayed

The latest figures from the Student Loans Company suggest 28,000 people from England are still waiting to receive their loans and grants.

Another 38,000 still have applications in the pipeline, although nearly half of these have had most of their money.

The body, which runs the student support system for England, has been criticised in a report for the delays.

It is drawing up an action plan to tackle the problems, which will include a management shake-up.

The latest statistics from the Student Loans Company show more than a million applications for loans were made for this year - up in line with a 10% increase in applications to universities.

Of these, 907,000 have been approved and 82,000 were withdrawn or not completed.

Applications are still coming in, as people can apply for a loan up to nine months after their courses start.

WHAT IS AVAILABLE, 2009-10
Tuition fee loan: up to £3,225
Maintenance loan: up to £3,564 non-means tested
+ up to £1,386 means tested
Maintenance grant: £2,906 on household income below £25,000 tapers up to household income of £50,020
Maintenance loan reduced by 50p for every £1 of grant
Bursaries: determined locally
Special Support Grant instead of maintenance grant of up to £2,906 for those eligible for means tested benefits (loan not reduced)

When the problems came to wider public attention in October, the SLC made the decision to focus on giving all students who had applied by late August their basic entitlement to a loan - and to deal with the extra means-tested elements afterwards.

Among the 28,000 people still waiting for loans to be approved, the SLC says 5,000 are being processed but in the remaining 23,000 cases, "further information is required from sponsors".

Among the 38,000 who have yet to receive all of their funds are 18,000 who have been given an "interim assessment" which means they will have had their basic loan paid, but not the means-tested element.

This is why students with disabilities and those applying for childcare support have been particularly affected.

The other 20,000 people in this category, the SLC says, are those whose applications have been approved but who still need to "make an online declaration", before payment can be triggered.

Many of the thousands of people who have e-mailed the BBC News website since September have complained their documents were lost or mislaid by the loans agency.

The report into the delays, by Professor Sir Deian Hopkin, confirmed that technical problems with new equipment brought in this year to scan people's documents had been partly to blame.

Next year's applications had been postponed while the SLC looked at the lessons learned from this year's problems but they have just been re-opened.

A statement from the SLC said: "The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the Student Loans Company are now satisfied that arrangements have been made to ensure that the processes are sufficiently robust so as to avoid a repeat of this situation next year and therefore the application cycle has now launched two months earlier than last year".

New students can now begin applications for funding for 2010/11 as they apply for a place at university through Ucas.



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