Q&A about Student Loans with Student Loans Company's Nichola Malton - Answers back

(59 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 09-Mar-11 13:13:34

Financial expert Jasmine Birtles has teamed up with the Student Loans Company (SLC) to talk about student finance. Covering what funding you are entitled to for tuition fees and living costs, how to apply for this money and when to make sure your finances are in place - either to start university or continue on to another academic year.

This is an opportunity for you to ask questions about the application process, benefit from her financial wisdom on how to manage your finances - or help your child budget - at university.

Send in your questions to Jasmine Birtles and Nichola Malton from the SLC before Monday 14th March at 5pm and we'll link to the answers from this thread later that week.

Jaquelinehyde Wed 09-Mar-11 15:30:38

Send in your questions? So do you want me to email it in to you or just post it here?

saggarmakersbottomknocker Wed 09-Mar-11 15:33:21

I don't have a question as such but I would like to know why Student Finance is so inefficient and also to point out that that inefficiency can mean that students have a pretty difficult start to life at university.

My son applied for his finance for his first year well in advance (february) yet still did not get his first payment until the first week in November. We had to bank roll him for the whole of that time and some, indeed many families are not in a position to do that. Whilst many universities are sympathtic the last thing you need when trying to settle in is to be worrying whether you can afford to eat.

This year it has taken from August until January to finalise a simple Travel Grant. It took 3 attempts to even get the correct form and I only got that because someone from my LA e-mailed SF and finally got hold of someone who was willing to follow it through. (thank you Kirsty). Also this year despite me sending evidence of our income as declared my son's original award has been adjusted and he will receive no grant payment for April. As he is currently studying abroad and needing every penny he can get this has again put our family finances under further pressure.

I have done all I can to make sure his finances are in place but Student Finance seem incapable of making that happen.

<rant over>

Dropdeadfred Wed 09-Mar-11 15:46:53

If one person is supporting two full time university students, one their wife and one their daughter, is that taken into consideration when their one same salary is used to calculate both students' loan entitlements?

slug Wed 09-Mar-11 16:19:01

Hi Jasmine and Nicola. I work in a university. Despite applying well before the deadline and constantly harassing keeping in touch with the Student Loan Company, a large percentage of our students routinely have to wait weeks after the start of the academic year before their loan comes through. This has a huge impact on both our administration and on the students.

If students don't have their finances in place by enrolment week, the knock on in time and money (for extra staff) to the University is quite significant. It also doesn't help to have already financially stressed students further stressed by what should be a fairly simple process. My job is busy enough at the beginning of the year without having to spend hours explaining to students that, until their finances are in place they won't complete enrolment and won't have access to some vital resources, especially when they have done everything correctly in the first place.

Given the fiascos of the last few years are fairly common knowledge, what processes have you put in place to ensure it runs smoother this year? How are you proposing to cope with the increase in fees?

<<whew, that felt good to get that off my chest>>

Indith Wed 09-Mar-11 17:35:57

Why is it impossible to get a straight answer about being eligable for childcare help?

I want to return to university but I cannot do so if I don't get childcare funding. I do not expect to waltz in and have my childcare funded just because I fancy another degree but I do expect to be able to get a straight answer from someone. All I keep being told is that I would have to apply to find out hmm so in order to find out if I can actually afford to do a course I have to apply for the course, go through interviews etc and then apply for my funding and have to turn the place down if the answer is no?

treedelivery Wed 09-Mar-11 18:05:09

A repeat of Indith's question! I will be funding my dh through uni, I am dying to know if we will get childcare help. I'm assuming not...but any knowledge on how this system works would be warmly appreciated.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 09-Mar-11 18:26:19

Sorry Jacquelinehyde - post your questions on this thread and we'll send them over at the end of day next Monday.

Indith Wed 09-Mar-11 18:33:54

Glad it isn't just me Tree I sometimes think I am just being very thick about it as it just seems obvious that it needs to be something you know before you apply.

EduStudent Wed 09-Mar-11 19:26:31

Why why why was it necessary, after having approved my 2nd year finance without asking to see proof of my parents income was I then asked to send it in in November after being chosen as part of a random sample?

The letter we received had been sent on 1st Nov. We received it on the 15th. The evidence had to be sent in by the 25th. I was told I would lose my finance if it wasn't. In the end, I lost £20 through reassessment hmm Was it really worth it?

I suppose my question, then, is why would my finance be approved for you then to turn round and demand a reassessment? The hassle and stress it caused could easily have been avoided if we had been asked to send the evidence in when I applied as we had anticipated.

JackiePaper Wed 09-Mar-11 19:31:02

I already have a student loan from a degree I did several years ago. I am starting my midwifery degree in September this year. Am I definitely entitled to the non means tested part of the student loan? I have been told by some people that I am not entitled as I already have one loan, but other people have told me that midwifery and nursing are exempt from this ruling. Will I be entitled to the basic loan or not?

saggarmakersbottomknocker Wed 09-Mar-11 19:37:16

That's what happened to dS2 Edustudent. I too am confused as why why there was a reassessment when our financial evidence confirmed the amount in the original application. Personally I'm unconvinced that it was a 'random sample' as everyone I know had to send evidence in November. It rather defeats the object of a student planning to manage their finances when they are cut off at the knees with a semester to go. Perhaps Jasmine should incorporate the possibility of an 'allowance for SLC cock-up' in her advice. hmm

Ponders Wed 09-Mar-11 20:22:05

I have a DS in second year at uni, & another who will be starting in the autumn.

I have just done the online application for next year for DS1, & when it asked "do you have any other children in Further or Higher Ed?" I said no, because I don't - DS2 is at 6th form college, that's not FE, is it??? - so presumably DS1's finance will have been calculated on the basis that he's the only one we're supporting next year. (Also, the total amount is less than for this year by about £400, although income pretty much the same, how come?)

When I come to do DS2's application, after 16th March, I will clearly answer yes to the same question - will DS1's finance then be recalculated?

Also, when & how do we get a SLC finance ID no. for DS2? (I can't remember confused) (If anyone posting here knows do tell me! Does it get sent automatically once DS2 has firmed his choices?)

Have to say it was much more user-friendly when this was all dealt with at County Hall hmm

pgpg Wed 09-Mar-11 20:50:12

Shockingly bad system. I too would like to know what has been put in place to improve things. I had letters contradicting what previous letters had said, letters asking for information that had already been sent, letters asking me for to send information again because there was "no record" of having received information and letters advising me to ignore previous letters. It was impossible to do anything on-line, despite a number of attempts and I lost count of the number of hours I spent trying to speak to someone who could answer questions.

What a shambles!

fitflopqueen Wed 09-Mar-11 21:16:59

Hopefully my DD will be going to university this Autumn, we would like to know how to start the ball rolling with regard to tuition fees and student loan.
If the fees are not payable til end of degree is interest applied from the beginning ie from 2011 or when the student starts earning?

Jaquelinehyde Wed 09-Mar-11 21:47:16

Ponders anything beyond compulsory education is FE so college and sixth form etc and Uni onwards is HE. I'm sure this is right but I'm happy to be corrected.

So I'm in my final year at uni and have had full student loans, bursaries and childcare etc for each year with little problem. However, I am considering deferring my final year until next year as life is falling apart at the moment. How will this effect my finance? Will I get any help next year as I would have had everything I was owed for this this year already?

Although, having said all that I may finish this year and the begin a postgrad course next year, which raises two further questions. If I chose to complete a 2 year masters degree in social work what would I be entitled to. Or what if I chose to complete a 1 year PGCE course in secondary english. What would I be entitled to then.

I have tried to research all of these options myself but the funding is so disjointed that it is almost impossible to work out. I thought undergraduate funding was confusing, but post grad is a bloody nightmare!

Ponders Wed 09-Mar-11 21:51:14

When you contact Glasgow with a problem you get nowhere IME; they seem to go out of their way to be unhelpful.

Darlington were better for us, but not until I'd written a very snotty (justified!) email, following which I received a communication from a helpful human who subsequently saw us through a very convoluted process (but even then documents were lost hmm)

waffleanddaub Wed 09-Mar-11 22:54:41

Is this just about England? If not, could you please advise me how my daughter can get a loan to cover her living expenses if she goes to a university away from home, in Scotland?

As far as I can tell from the website, she is only entitled to the minimum loan of around £900 due to our income. We do not have savings and have two younger children and can't afford the £400 a month for accommodation. It looks like in England she could get a maintenance loan, not dependent on parental income.?

Does this rule out attending the university of her choice? I am quite suprised by this, after all you pay back a loan, why can't she get one?

Thanks.

mercibucket Wed 09-Mar-11 23:01:37

If there was any alternative to your company it would have been driven out of business by its inefficiencies. Why is your company so utterly hopeless and inefficient and how do you plan on improving it to reach standards all other companies manage? why can't your company cope with changes of direct debit instruction? why does it take at least four months for new direct debit instructions to take effect? why is it the only company I have encountered that seems to have this problem?

onadietcokebreak Thu 10-Mar-11 10:20:28

I started Uni Sept 2010. 3 year course. I am deferring 2nd year as Im pregnant. Resuming Sept 2012.

Will I be hit by the new rules surrounding tuition loans?

onadietcokebreak Thu 10-Mar-11 10:24:20

Indith and Tree raise very valid points.

I fully appreciate that Childcare grant is subject to so many variables such as income and essential pre exisiting commintments such as mortgage,maintenance commitments, etc but I still feel there should be more info online.

At the very least the manual for how you make your calculations should be available so students could try and do there own calulations.

Actually Indith and Tree under FOI act I wonder if we could request that.......

saggarmakersbottomknocker Thu 10-Mar-11 10:32:22

Yes - it would be useful to know how you come to your 'residual income' figure, a term bandied about but which seems to have no published calculation.

loveyourspace Thu 10-Mar-11 12:14:47

Hello

I am thinking of starting a postgrad course - MA in a relevant area of study for my current career. Albeit that I am just looking for work at the moment after maternity leave.

It is a one year full time or two part time course. I have two children, one of which will be school age when I propose to start uni. Are you aware of any possible help with funding my course fees or maybe childcare costs whilst I study? (My partner works full time)Do you have any info relating to maximum earnings before funding is unavailable?

Thank you

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 10-Mar-11 15:34:35

Nichola Malton from the Student Loans Company has asked us to pass on this message to you.

'Thank you for taking the time to pose your questions to us. We value this feedback so we can address any issues you have and thereby continue to improve our service. We will be answering your questions on Tuesday and are committed to making the student finance process as easy as possible. You will be able to view our answers to your questions next week'.

BodyOfEeyore Thu 10-Mar-11 16:46:36

The bloody Student Loans Company! What a disorganised company they are.
I graduated from university in 1999, and qualified as a teacher of a shortage subject in 2003, and was accepted (after having to get my union involved in talks with the SLC) onto the RTL scheme. For years I received letters from the SLC saying I owed them money, and and when I phoned them, no-one knew anything about anything at all! It's a disrace and a shambles.

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