Loans still delayed, pot noodle saves the day

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The Independent Online

Thousands of UK students have still to receive their loans from the Student Loans Company (SLC), even though they are more than a month into term. Latest figures show that 109,000 students, with approved application forms, have still not seen any of the money they are due. Of these, 31,000 loan applications are still being processed, 39,000 are waiting for further information from students and 39,000 have only received basic funding, as their applications have only had a provisional assessment. With the increase of financial hardship during the recession, spurring an increase in applications, should the SLC not have expected a greater number of student loan requests?

Despite apologies and promises from the Student Loans Company's chief executive, Ralph Seymour-Jackson, that they “are actively doing all we can to work through all applications as quickly as possible,” students are still waiting. They are attributing the delays to large increases on loan requests: 723,000 students were paid by 25 October, a 2.5 per cent increase to the 705,000 student.

One student, Patrick Deane, from the University of Liverpool, waited as much as two months for his loan to come through. He suggested the delay occurred from initial problems with the online forms. In a world where we increasingly rely on the internet, up-to-date IT processing should be considered essential. Deane said he could not go out, could not eat well and was “extra stressed,” leading to difficulties with his studies.

During this time, students were having difficulties contacting the SLC. Oliver Proctor, a postgraduate from Edinburgh describes it as an “absolute nightmare” trying to speak to someone at SLC when enquiring about extra funding to pay his fees. “They appeared to close the phone-contact entirely,” he said.

A protest in Manchester against the Student Loans Company, saw students flocking to an event where Accommodation for Students, a student housing search engine, teamed up with Pot Noodle to hand out free food to hundreds of hungry students. Six thousand Pot Noodles were eagerly accepted by students hungry for a meal.

Dan Beldon, a student from Manchester, appreciated the support, saying that the SLC had left him in the lurch and that he was up to his eyeballs in debt, having maxed his overdraft. He has had to borrow money from his father just to make ends meet. “I’m glad that someone’s finally taking action for the students,” he says. Other students said they felt extremely angry, had been eating leftovers and one desperate student confessed, it is hoped in jest, that he had eaten the household cat. Walking away with handfuls of Pot Noodles, a grateful Manchester student said it was “a gift from God”. Another said, “This is amazing, it will provide me food for seven days.”

The president of the NUS, Wes Streeting, called on Ralph Seymour-Jackson to resign. The SLC said that the majority of students had received now their funding and that they were still receiving thousands of new applications each day.

Simon Thompson, founder for Accommodation for Students said it was scandalous that more than 100,000 students had still not received their student loans, and claimed that some students even had to defer their university places for a year. The SLC said they had anticipated a 15 per cent increase in applications this year and recruited more staff to deal with this. In reality they experienced a 17 per cent increase in loan applications in September this year. The Loans Company said that of the 96,000 who have still not received their loans, 19,000 applying for fee loans only, had not confirmed their attendance. Other factors, such as incomplete bank details and National Insurance number verification accounted for thousands of delays.