THOUSANDS of Edinburgh College students have not received crucial loan payments amid claims of a communications “breakdown” between the institution and national funding bodies.
As the new academic session gets under way, students today said they faced not being able to pay bills and having to drop out of courses because payments could take weeks longer than thought.
College bosses said they had followed normal procedure and that the confusion was due to an incorrectly dated letter sent out by the Student Loans Company (SLC).
But student leaders blamed the situation on a failure in the electronic system that confirms an individual’s registration to the SLC and the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
Kelly Parry, Edinburgh College Student Association president, said: “We’re extremely concerned about the impacts of this serious funding delay. Many students are living on a shoestring budget and this delay will have the greatest impact upon some of the most vulnerable.”
Ms Parry said she had spoken to anxious students who phoned the SLC only to be told it had no record of them as enrolled.
She also said the error was a sign that last year’s merger of Telford, Stevenson and Jewel & Esk colleges to form Edinburgh College had been rushed.
“In our view, this could have been avoided if the Scottish Government had embarked on college regionalisation at a more sensible pace,” she said. “We hope that the Government will put appropriate funding in place to replenish college hardship funds that students have applied to in droves.”
Bosses at Edinburgh College said that student loan payments had been processed in the usual way.
A spokeswoman said: “As in previous years, we first make sure that students attend college and have enrolled in their classes before passing on this information as quickly as possible to the Student Loans Company to process the payments for our HNC and HND students.
“The Student Loans Company usually makes payments one to two weeks after a student’s enrolment is confirmed.
“Edinburgh College’s term started on August 26 so the first payments should be made after this date as planned.
“However, it seems that our students received a letter from the Student Loans Company incorrectly stating that their first payments would be on August 23.”
SLC bosses said they were investigating the problem, while a SAAS spokesman said: “For students who have funding issues through SAAS, the advice first and foremost is to speak to SAAS.”
Scottish Government officials rejected claims of a link between SAAS funding and college mergers, which they said were entirely separate issues.
‘It’s a shambles . . we are in the dark’
ROBERT Douglas, 28, who is starting an HNC in social sciences at Edinburgh College, said he and other students were furious at confusion over loan payments.
He said: “It’s a shambles, basically.
“I was supposed to get my first payment two Fridays ago. When we try to find out what’s happening, we just get sent to another person.
“No-one seems to know what’s going on. I have people who can support me but among the rest of the students, there are people who are worried about losing their homes and paying their bills. Any information we get is from our teachers and they have been excellent – but we have not had any official word from the college about what’s happening.
“We are in the dark. Basically, they need to find a system that works.”