Software slip adds to loan crisis

August 20, 1999

A botched database set up by the Student Loans Company will leave thousands of students strapped for cash as they start their higher education courses.

The database supplied to local authorities by the SLC to help them process student loans applications omits dozens of institutions, it emerged this week.

Many local education authorities contacted by The THES said that not all students who had applied for a loan before the A-level results were announced yesterday would have a cheque waiting for them next term.

According to David Coolbear of Essex County Council, the Colchester Institute of Higher Education, for example, was still not included on this week's edition of the database.

"We would like to have cheques waiting for all our students, but unfortunately it is just not going to happen," Mr Coolbear said.

The Department for Education and Employment was still insisting this week that those who applied for loans early would get their cheques on time. It has set up a way to process applications for students on missing courses, but this fails to tackle missing institutions, which could number more than 100.

Mr Coolbear said: "I don't think the DFEE's claim is feasible. You cannot fast-track applications when the college does not appear on the database."

The difficulties new students face will be compounded by clearing. More than 50,000 people who are expected to join the scramble for places following yesterday's A-level results could be starting university with no loan cheque.

A DFEE spokesman said: "If people have applied late then they may well get their money late."

Last week, the government asked universities to lend money from access funds to students without loan cheques and not to demand fees from students who have not been assessed financially. But it also asked local authorities to hold back from supplying financial assessments to the SLC until after October 1. Universities could therefore lose a month's interest on delayed tuition fees.

Student leaders blame the loans chaos on the government for setting too tight a timetable for the introduction of the new system.

Andrew Pakes, president of the National Union of Students, said: "While everyone is blaming each other the students could end up being the innocent victims."

The Local Government Association blamed the government for supplying computer programmes late, delaying means testing of nearly 500,000 applicants.

The news came as a new survey of parents revealed confusion and a sense of betrayal surrounding the introduction of tuition fees. The survey, part of a project analysing the attitudes of 1,000 parents of prospective students, uncovers "grave concerns" about the impact of funding changes.

"There is a great deal of re-ordering of middle-class lifestyles going on," said researcher Anthony Hesketh of Cardiff University's school of education.

Dr Hesketh identified confusion over the government's new scheme across three categories of parents.

The "pragmatists", who have larger than average incomes, believe that going to university and acquiring debts is part of the experience of learning.

"Strategists" with slightly lower income levels are planning meticulously for their child's university education with trust funds or personal equity plans. But they feel "betrayed" by the government's decision to charge them the fees.

"Antagonists" are hostile towards government policy and to the financial difficulties that they believe are being "imposed" upon them.

A-level fears, page 3

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments