Graduates’ Anger Rises at ‘Nightmare’ Student Loan Company | Student funding

When Gary Ashworth moved to Botswana in 2013 to try and start a design business, he immediately told the Student Loans Company that he would be leaving the UK. Despite updating the business with his income, as requested, last year he discovered that £ 930 was being demanded by a debt collection company.

The reason for this severe sanction? He apparently failed to put his date of birth on one of the many forms sent out by the loan company. Ashworth is just the latest graduate to complain to Guardian Money about what they claim to be brutal and unfair treatment from the SLC, an organization that appears to be quickly turning into one of the less popular brands in the world. UK.

The designer, who now lives in Gaborone, was among hundreds of graduates who responded to last Saturday’s Money report on Jenny Richards’ case, saying they were also on the wrong side of abuse. In her case, the SLC wrongly quadrupled the interest on its £ 42,000 loan from 0.9% to 3.9% for a perceived error it never made. She had also gone overseas, in this case only for a few months, but then faced a year-long battle for the SLC to rectify the mistake and provide proof that it had done so. Only Money’s intervention ultimately provided proof that her loan was not increasing at a higher rate, she says.

Since then, weary graduates have told us they are receiving similar treatment from the SLC, many of whom claim are not up to the task of administering the huge sums that are become student loans. They also complain about punitive charges and the bureaucratic nightmare of dealing with the lender. Many are furious that drastic changes in loan terms and interest rates have been allowed to rise once the loans are taken out.

Ashworth’s case was one of the most extreme. The 37-year-old studied design at present-day Bolton University. “Before leaving for Botswana, I informed SLC, who asked me to complete an overseas assessment form, which I did, and my loan was frozen for 12 months. I had started a graphic design business, but the market here is saturated which means it has been slow to start and my income has stayed below the payback threshold.

Gary Ashworth

“For the first two years, SLC was nice. However, last year that all changed and I found myself contacted by representatives of a company called Transcom, a debt collection agency. Suddenly my outstanding balance was in arrears of £ 930, ”he says. Trying to shed light on what had happened required countless emails and phone calls over a period of several months. Eventually, it emerged that he had been penalized for failing to include his date of birth on a form. “The whole experience was very unpleasant and I felt I was not receiving any support or clarity from SLC. He basically washed his hands of me. There is no quick way to contact him overseas. You can send an email, but it can take 28 days to respond – assuming you mind doing it, ”he says. Ashworth has since repaid the loan except for the £ 930, but says he cannot get a direct response from the SLC or Transcom as to his exact position.

And he is by no means alone. Those who go abroad seem to have had a particularly difficult time. Another wrote: “The SLC is horrible to handle. I live abroad to prepare for a doctorate and despite sending all the requested information, he keeps asking me for it. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare: on the phone they confirm receipt, then I get letters and emails. I repeated this several times and then was told everything was in order. The next letter I received was to say that my loan had been transferred to a debt collection agency.

A repeated complaint is about intrusive questions and requests. Another graduate, who this time gave up his job to change careers, described the problem of convincing the SLC that he was not working because he was not claiming the Jobseeker’s Allowance. He wanted letters from his wife, bank statements and more. The case took months to resolve, which is in contrast to dealing with HMRC who accepted their change of status with one letter and no fuss. He had considered taking a teaching course but said he decided not to, in part because it would have forced him back into the hands of the SLC.

A spokesperson for the SLC told Money Ashworth was not fined £ 930. Instead, this sum was requested because he did not complete the overseas form for the year starting February 2015, and it was assumed that he was earning above the payment threshold. . He offered to send him a full statement indicating what he reimbursed.

“The SLC is committed to protecting public funds and has a duty to collect all amounts owed by taxpayers. We make every effort to contact all customers who are moving overseas for a period of three months or more to ensure that those who should be making refunds are doing so, and to distinguish those customers who are not eligible for the refund from those who are deliberately trying to avoid repaying. . “

He declined to answer broader questions about how the SLC is run.

Difficult relationships – your experiences

It reminds me of my own student loan nightmare. I had started paying them back (and had made all the payments) when, out of the blue, I received a letter saying that one of my loans was in arrears and I needed to update the payments, pay arrears fees or face legal action.

It took me forever to sort it out – tons of phone calls and time spent looking at bank statements before I thought about checking the account number of the loan I had missed payments on. It turned out that they had confused the account numbers and I had paid off someone else’s loan when they were not paying mine. SLC agreed to waive the fee but still tried to charge the administrator £ 15 for the letter they sent in error. SLC has always been a terrible organization, it’s just a lot worse now the money at stake is about 10 times the amount I borrowed. It’s scandalous.” Norsked

This “business” is a nightmare. I have experienced all kinds of administrative nightmares, minor but absolutely opaque. No other loan provider would be able to operate the same. ” Cloud 9

In my experience, they have terrible record keeping practices. I called recently to find out how much I had paid and what my total loan was (so I could make a prepayment). The person on the phone had to be away for 15 minutes and add up my contributions. When I called back a day or two later, I got a different answer to my questions. Scary when it comes to tens of thousands of pounds for most people. D1255358

My daughter worked abroad for a year and sent them all the documentation. She has set up an automatic debit to pay off her student loan each month while she is away. At the end of the year, she got a three-month job in the United States. The SLC immediately started withdrawing £ 250 per month from their account as they had access to it through their direct debit (originally for a much smaller amount). This put her in financial difficulty. This was sorted out when he returned to the UK, but they treat people extremely harshly. ” ID5279121

The government froze the repayment threshold and hiked the interest rate retroactively, and although there is some legal challenge, none have materialized. It seems that in this country, contract law means nothing if your contract is with a public company. The contract I signed is no longer the set of conditions to which I am bound, so the fundamental principles that are legally binding on both parties simply seem to no longer apply. Alexandra Green Lane

The problem is, SLC is not regulated like any other business offering personal loans. They are able to fundamentally change the rules: repayment thresholds, interest rates, going abroad, as they see fit. I was about to start additional voluntary contributions, but my job warned me that SLC will not reimburse any accidental overpayments! It should be regulated in accordance with other financial services. ” Mr. Vincent

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