Lloyds TSB offers bigger overdrafts to loan delay-hit students

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The Independent Online

A high street bank offered bigger overdrafts today to those affected by delays to the student finance system.

Tens of thousands of students are starting university this month without full funding after the Student Loans Company (SLC) struggled to cope with demand.

There have been numerous complaints about delays in processing applications, with most revolving around problems getting through to advisers.

Lloyds TSB said that it would offer first-year university students who already hold an account the chance to apply to extend their interest-free overdraft to £1,000.

Under current rules, students who have an account with the bank are allowed a £500 overdraft in the first six months, can extend it to £1,000 in months seven to nine and £1,500 by the end of the year.

Catherine McGrath, Lloyds TSB director of current accounts, said: "We are very conscious that these delays are causing considerable concern to our affected student account holders and we are keen to be as flexible as possible to help freshers that could otherwise really struggle.

"We hope that by providing the opportunity to extend their overdraft, we will help to ease the worry of those who need funding the most."

Most English universities have started their new terms over the past two weeks and payments of loans and grants are triggered when a student registers for their course.

Some 700,000 payments are due to have been made this week and last.

The SLC admitted two weeks ago that between 50,000 and 60,000 students may not receive their full funding when they start university and estimated that a further 50,000 students are still waiting to have their applications processed.

The company said that some students who have applied to be means-tested will receive "basic funding" - which consists of tuition fees and basic maintenance grants and loans - as they start their course.

The balance of funding, if it is proved that they qualify for it, will follow by late October, they said.

Students, mainly from poorer families, who are eligible for the means-tested extra payments are the most likely to be affected.

SLC deputy chief executive Derek Ross said the situation was not unusual and happens every year when students submit applications late, or without the right paperwork.

Delays to processing applications have been caused by record increases in the number of applications to university fuelled by workers returning to education in the recession, which has put pressure on the system.

It emerged last week that the Government was aware of potential problems with the student loans system as early as January.

Minutes show a senior Government official was at an SLC board meeting when the problem of funding gaps having an effect on services was discussed and he advised the company it may need to make further cuts.