Forget the education of their customers, will the Student Loans Company ever learn? It appears not – months after we found students being charged for loans they’d already paid, the same thing’s happening again.
Towards the end of last year Which? reported that 57,000 former students were waiting for refunds totalling £15 million. The problem was that the Student Loans Company (SLC) and HMRC couldn’t get their act together and communicate to one another when students had paid in full.
One year on and you’d expect the problem to have been rectified, but it hasn’t. In fact it’s only got worse. Recent figures show that the SLC overcharged graduates by £22.5 million, meaning the average borrower was owed more than £550.
No harm done? Yes there is
Back when we looked at this, the SLC claimed that everyone would get their money back, and no real harm was done. How would they know if they can’t even keep tabs on when someone has paid off the money borrowed in full? Are we really to believe this?
I don’t. I’d wager that a fair percentage of students who thought they’d paid off the last of their loan wouldn’t like to settle for this brush-off. How many of these graduates will find themselves struggling to budget for the month, left in the red due to unpaid credit card bills or overdrafts incurred because they expected to have a little more cash in their accounts?
How graduates are affected
Judging by the comments left on our previous Conversation, many graduates would argue that this has caused them great harm. One ex-student, Philip, told us:
‘My bank has charged me more than £100 in overdraft fees and my mobile phone company has charged me a huge amount to call the SLC customer services number.’
Lorna said she had overpaid to the tune of £170 a month for a year:
‘This is a substantial part on my income… I am overdrawn nearly every month because I find it difficult to make ends meat living in London, this money would have gone a long way to making my monthly wage go a lot further.’
And Tashalouiza pointed out that the £1,600 she was owed was the ‘equivalent to the cost of maintaining, taxing, insuring and fuelling our car, and paying for my monthly tube ticket!’
These graduates, and others, have one hell of a battle on their hands trying to get their money back, if the lack of competence exposed is anything to go by. Judging by the recent criticism of HMRC, and the SLC’s lack of ability to tell the Treasury to stop taking payments when the debt’s been cleared, I reckon that this won’t be the last year we hear of this debacle.