Student loans: when the going gets really tough

Luke Tobin, one of the physio students affected by a claw back of the student loan overpayment, on what it means for him.

I heard that I had been overpaid by the Student Loans Company (SLC) earlier this year, much to my surprise and dismay.
 
I applied as normal, stating that I was an NHS tuition fees funded student, with access to the NHS bursary for some of my living costs. I was told that I had been overpaid by around £600 this year, and that I wasn’t to receive another payment from SLC this year.
 
I have the option of paying this excess payment back now, although I am by no means in the position to do so financially. This means I will accrue interest on the overpayment in the same way that I pay interest on the rest of the money borrowed from SLC. This is not the situation for everyone, as I have heard of some students being asked to pay back with more immediate effect.
 
Either way, I feel that we are being penalised for something that is the fault of the SLC, not us as students.
 
Up until Christmas, I had been working as a part-time self-employed cycle courier to help subsidise my living costs, but due to the increase in academic commitments this year, I have had to cease doing so. This leaves me in a better position than some. Yes, I have a small amount of money saved that will enable me to continue to pay rent in my current house, but this has effectively reduced my disposable income to close to nil. Any plans to holiday this summer before beginning full-time qualified work are cancelled, while in the present time this clawback has put severe restrictions on what I am able to afford socially.
 
Key to all of this, though, are my academic commitments. I’m in my final year of study, completing my research project and dissertation alongside other assessments and placements. 
 
If I had known earlier in the year that I had been overpaid, I would have been better able to plan my finances and would be in a less compromising position than I’m currently left in.
 
I don’t have the time currently to hold down a job, so there isn’t an opportunity for me to generate a bit of income. 
 
The reality is, I’m going to be forced into using my overdraft facility over the coming months, even after careful financial planning over the past two and a half years.
 
My situation is not as bad as that of others. 
 
I would advise students who have been contacted by SLC regarding overpayment, or who believe they have been overpaid but haven’t yet heard from SLC, to contact their student union and university money advice service. 
 
They should also notify their CSP rep as the CSP will be measuring the impact on physiotherapy students nationally.
 
  • Luke Tobin is chair of the CSP’s student executive committee
 
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Luke Tobin chair of the CSP’s student executive committee

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