Loan overpayment error leaves students struggling to pay rent
RCN general secretary urges Student Loans Company not to recover overpayments
Hundreds of nursing students are struggling to pay their rent and living costs after an error with the system that pays their loans.
Students from at least nine universities in England have received letters from The Student Loans Company (SLC) revealing they have been overpaid.
The totals range from £600-£3,900 and the letters explain the students will receive no further payments until September.
It is understood that the payments, made to second and third-year students, had not been adjusted for the NHS bursary they still receive.
Other students received grant funding despite unsuccessful applications.
It has also emerged that several of the students at the affected universities – including Derby, Southampton, Suffolk and West London – queried the amounts they had received from the SLC but were incorrectly assured they had received the right amounts.
Southampton nursing student Jessica Sainsbury, who is affected by the error, said: ‘The past couple of weeks turned the world upside down.
‘Some of my peers see no option other than to drop out if they are unsuccessful with hardship fund applications from our university.
‘As well as being extremely upset, students are shocked at how SLC has managed this situation, with information sent in dribs and drabs, and some students being notified weeks after their peers.’
University of West London nursing student Emma Moss added: ‘This is the last thing I need in the final few months of my nursing degree.
‘I’m worried sick about being left with barely enough money to pay the rent, buy food, and travel to work and university.
‘When I called the SLC in September to question my payments, they told me that there was no error.
‘Now they tell me that I owe almost £800 and will not be receiving my next instalment
‘If they take this money from me, I have no idea what I’m going to do next.’
The news has alarmed the RCN, with general secretary Janet Davies writing to urge the SLC, in agreement with the education secretary and according to its existing overpayment policies, not to recover overpayments.
She wrote: ‘Students budget according to loan forecasts and a sudden withdrawal of payment can have disastrous results, such as an inability to pay rent.
‘This action comes at a critical time, when students are studying for exams and projects.
‘I am concerned about the considerable amount of distress and disruption this error, and subsequent action, are causing.
‘Student nurses, or any students, are not in a position to cope with a sharp reduction in expected loan payments.’
An SLC spokesperson said: 'We are investigating exactly how this error occurred and we are in contact with the students and institutions affected to make them aware. We do not want any affected students to suffer hardship as a result of this issue and will use our discretionary powers to defer the recovery action, if appropriate.'
The SLC encourages any affected students to email email@example.com
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