Bill Rammell not so long ago announced new plans for the transformation of the delivery of student finance in England. It now seems that all is not well with the system and over 21000 graduates continued to make repayments to the Student Loans Company (SLC) even though they had cleared their debt.
The figures are quite horrifying with an exponential upward trend since 2001, increasing from a mere 267 to 21774 in less than 7 years. What is more worrying is that with the increase of student debt as reported by The Student Zone towards the end of last year, it can only compound the problem further.
The system to end repayments may be a contributing factor towards the problem. Once a student graduates and providing they earn more the £15000 a year, nine per cent is deducted from their salary by HM Revenue & Customs. When the graduate is about to repay the loan amount the SLC sends them a letter asking them to send a copy of their P60 or all pay-slips from their final tax year as proof they have paid. It is only then that the SLC will send stop notice to HM Revenue & Customs.
So the SLC sends you a letter you send them one back and then they send a letter to the Taxman who only then stops deducting the repayments. So what happens if youre a graduate that has moved house recently or there is a postal strike, not forgetting that it maybe a good number of years after graduating and you could even be abroad at the time. So what happens? Well its quite simple really they keep taking the money until the end of the financial year and only then is it automatically stopped.
Mike Harding of The Student Zone and the Student Debt Reduction Solution (SDRS) commented on the news
When you look at the figures and the time scales it makes for worrying reading, yet another over complicated government system handling a simple process, it reminds me all to much of the failed Child Support Agency. I would like to ask and be interested to find out where all this money ends up before it is refunded to the students
In fact on Monday 3 July 2006 the SLC released a Press Announcement entitled SLC welcomes unveiling of new Student Finance delivery system At the end of the document a handy summary of key changes was included in the editors notes and under the heading Timely payments: it states We will be able to contact students by texting their mobile phones, surely if the SLC can be this efficient with payments they could use the same kind of efficiency and insight into notifying the students they have made all their repayments.
Or indeed use of email could be one solution, after all its not often we change our personal email address and when we move house it doesnt change and the internet is not often likely to go on strike due to a pay dispute with a bunch of Cisco Reuters
So Bill how are you going to sort this one out?