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back to article Student loans company says 'we're not overloaded'

The Student Loans Company has insisted its systems are coping with a surge of applications despite complaints of a rising backlog of applications ahead of the new academic year. Up to 50,000 students face starting term without full loans. Late applicants have been promised provisional payments. Student forums are still full of …

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Unclear forms and dumb systems - predictable results

From my son's experience, it is no surprise they are in trouble.

Forms are badly drafted (we had to phone twice to ask what they meant).

And one of the most obvious of situations cannot be handled online. Thousands of students will end up on their second-choice course. How is this handled? The student is required to print off and fill out an EIGHT-PAGE form and send it by post, to be processed manually (target "two to four weeks").

Yet SLC already have the data - it is on the UCAS record from which they pick up the first-choice course. It would be trivially simple for them to offer an online solution for this.

SLC are delivering incompetence of the first order.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't remember..

..ever recieving an slc loan before semester started is that expected now?

that was 12years ago though!

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obligatory cynism

Don't bother, save yourself from a life of debt and a worthless qualifiication and ditch University unless you are actually planning on doing something useful and needed.

We have enough people who 'studied' business / media / fashion etc and there are no jobs for you.

If you are doing a tech related degree think twice about exactly what job is available for you since 90% of tech jobs can and have been outsourced to somewhere with lower wages and higher standard of education (India).

... yeah and get a hair cut too! This isn't high school musical you know!!

(yoof of today with their long hair and scrappy clothes)

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Nothing new

This stuff happens every year. That and the backlog in student accommodation at every bloody university.

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Boffin

Student Loans Company

Bastards!

They threated to take me to court for £0.11pence intrest. It cost more money to send me the letter threatening action.

So glad i have paid them off and never have to deal with them every again.

Wishing all the new studes good luck and try not to have too much fun!

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They're too busy harassing me.

The reason they don't have enough people to answer the phones is because they're busy ringing my answering machine while I'm at work every day an pestering me for payment -- despite the fact they've never sent me a Direct Debit form and I send them cheques fairly regularly.

When the company changed hands a few years ago they changed from a (relatively) efficient and reasonable loan provider to a third-rate debt collection agency.

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Rob
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Grenade

BooHoo

Means they'll have to get a job whilst studying until their loans come in, my heart bleeds for them.

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Gav
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Student Finance England

Well no matter how bad they are, they at least manage to make a significant point in the first line of their statement that this news report completely misses.

The problem is actually with Student Finance England. There are others parts of The Student Loans Company.

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Fuck you rob

Lots of students still work jobs will getting loans. A unless you believe it's only the privileged go to college or are you one of those that think college is worthless.

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mwk

@AC I don't remember...

12 years ago you weren't required to pay tuition fees at the start of the year, and universities hadn't started charging ~£3-4k for 31 weeks accommodation.

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The pinnacle of competence

Given the constant hassle they're giving my wife, in spite of her regularly providing all the required information for ongoing deferment and the frequent opportunities they take to steal money from her with neither the right nor permission, I expect they're too busy with their embarrassingly fumbling and shockingly incompetent debt-collection oafs to remember to lend any new students money.

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Pirate

Expat

If you want to really screw the blasterds over, rack up debt with them, then leave the country.

There is no way for them to chase you and you can live life happy in the knowledge that you scored yourself an old style student grant from before the government decided that free money for further education was money better spent on their own pay rises and falsified expenses.

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Unhappy

The cost of education these days

@Rob

You do realise that you have to pay your several thousand pounds tuition fees upfront from these loans?

Guessing you (like me) went to uni before you had to start paying £3k a year (plus top-up fees) for the pleasure of shit lecturers and substandard facilities, on top of having enough money to live.

The really dumb thing about this is that the hardest hit will be exactly the poorer kids who the government were supposed to be encouraging into higher education.

All the middle class kids will get mummy and daddy to sub them the money until the loan comes in.

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How hard can it be? They only pluck their figures out of the air, anyway.

In 2006 the Student Loans company wrote, to refund me one hundred and fifty pounds worth of over payment, that they had made against me previously. This was for a student loan that dated from my BSc degree, which I began back in Summer 1991. Furthermore, it was on a debt that I had voluntarily repaid the bulk of, during my industrially-funded PhD, between the years 1994-1997. The most striking thing, however, is that I still have the letter I suddenly got from them in April 1999, threatening legal action if I did not repay the remaining balance of the loan - something around three hundred quid, as I recall - which I grudgingly did and thought no more of it... until this refund suddenly arrived (as unannounced and unexpected as the legal demand that came before it).

So it only took them seven years for them to work out that I'd been over charged £150, on a loan that was, by that time, a decade and a half old.

Now, in 2006, I happened working as an IT contractor at £32 an hour: a precarious but wealthy existence. £150, was a short-day's work, to me, by then. However, I reckon that at any time in between the Summer of 1991 and the Autumn of 1999, £150 would have been pretty damn useful to me (albeit in a rather boring, "paying-the-gas-bill" sort of way).

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Anonymous Coward

@John Geddes

As a student going through this process this year, I know exactly what you're going through.

The online application form takes forever to fill out and most of it is duplicated data they could have pulled from UCAS. Like your son, I didn't get my first choice. However, none of the documentation or information supplied to me by SLC indicated that I would need to contact them to inform them that I would be going to my insurance choice instead. I only found out in late August that I had to fill out that 8 page form and send it off. Thanks to the conflicting information available on their site, it was also sent to the wrong place first of all.

They've now finally got my correct University on record and with any luck I might see some money soon.

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FAIL

Well they can start by getting a hold facility!

Try dialling the 0845 number they give you - you'll get a message saying everyone's busy, call back later. (An engaged tone wouldn't make them any money, would it?)

Note - you can't get put on hold, and it's always busy (the only option is to keep hitting 'redial' and hope it lets you in). It works out pretty expensive, paying all those connection charges!

There's no good looking for an alternative non-0845 number - there was one, but they've cut it off sometime in the last week.

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de ja vu all over again

Back in the 90's, under the old student loans regime, there came a "tipping point" when the loan became greater than the grant and the grant wouldn't cover basic costs like rent and deposit. Anyone with a photo sensitive cell could see this coming, and not surprisingly, there was a big spike in students applying for the loan on day one. Were the student loan company ready, were they buggery. Today's students have my sympathy. Very expensive pig in a poke this university lark.

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Stop

Pfft

The SLC are sending out nothing but lies.

I sent my application in April and it still isn't ready to pay me at the start of my course in just over 1 week.

Many who need their full means tested loans for things such as accomodation costs have only been given the basic non-means tested loans.

It is very common to have to send forms 3 or 4 times even when they have been sent by recorded delivery.

Their website is pointless - you can't change any part of your application on it (apart from your bank detail oddly enough). So all those who changed university because of their results had to send in paper forms.

Many of said forms sent on results day haven't been processed yet meaning that the SLC still thinks they're going to their original university.

Their fancy new scanners broke very early on meaning post had to be redirected up to Glasgow from Darlington.

These experiences all come from first hand experiences of me and my friends.

OH and if any of you are wondering i'm meant to be doing an MCOMP in Computer Science for 5 years at Bath. Although, guess what, the SLC messed up scanning in my form and instead have me down as doing an MMath in Computer Science for 4 years.

Their website has been unable to cope so they removed two of the most useful areas - view correspondence let you see which letters were winding their way to you and view evidence which let you see what evidence they had received and/or needed. Now everyone who needs to know these things instead have to clog up the phone lines leading to not even getting put in a queue. If you do get put in a queue you are on hold for 2 hours. Every time you ring you are told something different.

Finally, I do wonder why this supposedly devolution-loving government decided to instead centralise this process. Applying through LEA's (as in the old system) meant if there was a problem you could hop on a bus and see someone actually handling your application face-to-face. I'm envious of the returning students who are still under that system.

[/rant]

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Boffin

Thank god I avoided the SLC

Being part of the last year without tuition fees hath its privileges.

Back when I was a student there was a big hoo-ha about how the directors of the SLC were spending rather a lot of money on un-Student Loany things, namely whiskey and going to the rugby and cricket, so I decided not to deal with them if at all possible.

It always amazes me how often the SLC (or its subsidiaries) not doing it's job properly story crops up seeing as their parameters of operation are pretty well defined: busy time is August/September, expect up to half of the number of A level students that year to require your services; test your service response assuming that this will happen.

Yet, every time the story crops up, the SLC response is deny, deny, admit, but that there was an unexpected level of demand. It's not as though this is a new service and you woefully underestimated what "a lot of demand" meant as with something like the census website - you can ring up the Office of National Statistics or similar, ask them how many A Level students there are, divide that by 2 and add a few for luck, and there's a ballpark figure for demand levels that is on the generous side.

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IT Angle

Messy

The online system they have in place is not as functional as you'd hope. It is very limited, and what is there is not explained well enough.

I could design a better system by myself that follows the principles of good GUI design, that an average user can use and immediately understand what they are doing or how to do something they desire. It should be the user that is in charge: the user wants to do something, and the portal enables them to do it. Instead the system works in a way that the portal allows them to do a limited set of things, if they can work out how.

One thing that is sorely lacking from it is a way to ask a question online. There is no way at all to do this. I had thought they might have a form you can fill in, and get a response to your account (as well as a notification to your email address). Or at the least, an email address you can contact. But the only way they allow you to contact them is by phone, and the people you get through to tend to not know much about it when put on the spot. Account-specific enquiries are hard to make, and you get conflicting opinions and the classic "left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing" situations.

This is exacerbated by the changes they keep making. When I started my university education, it was handled by my local LEA. Apparently this is no longer the case. Some of my forms have to be sent to Student Finance England in -- I believe it was -- Darlington. But then, my LEA were angry because they have to be kept in the loop as well still, since I started with them. And recently I've had to send things to Glasgow instead. I don't even know why.

Howmever, the phone support from my LEA has been pretty good, the people there know what is going on and explain exactly what I should do. They are helping me to sort a situation out, and it IS getting sorted out, despite this claimed backlog etc. It is the new national Student Finance England that you have to watch out for, because my impression of them is that they're a bit useless.

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Stop

Why apologize to their customers?

The ones that don't get their loans surely aren't customers yet?

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Joke

The reason is obvious

Too many of these students don't have a NMCLFTMMCH!

What's a FTMMCH?

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Anonymous Coward

At least....

At least they haven't "lost" your deferrment papers (for the second year running) and then decided that must mean you want to pay the whole thing back in one go...

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: The reason is obvious

Don't you ever read the Guardian, Neil?

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Pint

ahhh memories

i never did figure out why they wouldnt give us the loan Before we got there

then i learned you'd spend it because your only human, managed to blow my loan on 5 for 20 deals on vhs tapes at HMV and booze of course

i then got double shafted because i was skint and had lots of VHS tapes when DVD was around the corner DOH!

beer because students etc.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The cost of education these day

>You do realise that you have to pay your several thousand pounds tuition fees upfront from these loans?

No you don't. Do you really go to university? I've just arranged to pay for my lads' fees by interest free instalments.

>All the middle class kids will get mummy and daddy to sub them the money until the loan comes in.

There are only two things that I don't like being called middle class is one of them and a Tory is the other. I've worked damn hard so that those of my children which have chosen (or have yet to choose) to go to university can do so without depending on outside financial aid. Oh, and I wouldn't for one moment think of what we are paying as a sub, it's part of parenting. Hopefully my children will be in a better position then me to provide for and help their own children, so we progress. If your parents didn't have the same work ethic or attitude towards their children then I think it's best to keep that chip on your shoulder to yourself.

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