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Loans fiasco may force nursing students to quit

RCN calls on government to write-off loan overpayments to protect over 800 students

RCN calls on government to write-off loan overpayments to protect over 800 students

Loans
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Nursing students could be forced to quit university, the RCN has warned, as the full scale of the loan-overpayment fiasco is revealed.

More than 800 students on nursing and other healthcare courses have been told their loan instalments expected next week will be reduced or withheld to compensate for previous errors.

However, the government-owned Student Loans Company (SLC) said today it will use its discretionary powers ‘to defer’ recovery action ‘where appropriate' and asked affected students to contact the organisation.

But the RCN has called on the government to write-off the overpayments and protect students.

Hardships

When news of the overpayment by the SLC first came to light, students at nine universities were said to be affected.

However, the government’s universities minister Sam Gyimah MP has admitted, in written answers to Conservative MP Gary Streeter, that students from 20 universities have been affected.

He added: ‘We are aware of 804 NHS-funded students who may have been overpaid maintenance loans and/or grants in the academic year 2017-18.

‘None of the students affected should suffer hardship as a result of the error, and students affected should contact the Student Loans Company.’

The overpayments ranged from £600 to £6,000 and when students contacted the SLC to flag possible errors, they were initially reassured the amounts were correct.

Some students now face the prospect of receiving no further money until September.

An SLC spokesperson said, however: ‘We do not want anyone to suffer hardship as a result of a reduced entitlement and will use our discretionary powers to defer the recovery action, where appropriate.’

Affected universities

  • Brunel University London
  • Cardiff University
  • Glyndwr University
  • Plymouth Marjon University
  • University of Brighton
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Suffolk
  • University of West London
  • Leeds University
  • University of Essex
  • University of Bedfordshire
  • University of Worcester
  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • University of Derby
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Reading
  • University of Salford

Children

The RCN said the largest overpayments were made to the poorest students, who received means-tested grants, including mature students who cannot turn to parents for financial support and often have children to look after.

One such nursing student is dad-of-two Rupert Davies, studying in London.

He said: ‘Being told I had been overpaid by £2,700 and that this would be recovered from future payments was a huge shock to me.

‘Hospital placements and high childcare costs mean I am unable to take on extra paid work, so I may have to consider whether or not I can remain on my course as a result of the error.’

Bursary

Only students in receipt of a nursing bursary appear to have been affected.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘A sharp reduction in loan payments could have a catastrophic effect on limited student budgets and drive some to leave their studies.

‘Nursing students should not be paying the price for this error, and the subsequent clumsy attempts to reclaim the overpayments.

‘What makes this particularly galling is that those students who queried the payments were told they were correct.

‘Ministers must use their power to resolve this fiasco, write-off the overpayments and protect students from further stress and disruption.’

To contact the SLC, email discretionary_payments@slc.co.uk


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