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What shall I do if I have problems with my funding?

By David Malcolm

Friday 15 March 2013 Higher education

Once you’ve applied for your higher education funding in the UK and are starting your course, you’d expect the payments to come through smoothly – unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Here’s some advice about common issues you may face.

This topic contains the following:

I don't have any money at the start of term – help!

If your student finance payments haven’t come through in time, approach your university or college and ask about an emergency hardship loan to help cover you until they do. Here are some details of the hardship loans available:

You should also speak to the university or college about your tuition fee liability. The government, NUS and Universities UK advise institutions to show understanding to students who are experiencing delays in the system, and most will.

Other options for finance in the first few weeks of term may be to use the interest-free overdraft facility from your student bank account, your savings, earnings from part-time employment or help from your family. See Where do I go for help if I’m in financial difficulty? for more ideas.

If you’re a disabled student and/or have children, make sure you’ve applied for all possible help through the social security and tax credits systems, though for some this may be difficult because you have no evidence of your student support entitlement. For more information, see Can I claim government benefits as a student? and What tax credits can I get as a student?

If you’re still struggling, contact the advice centre at your university, college or students' union for their support and guidance.

I can't get through to the helpline – what can I do?

Most calls to the official helplines are answered quickly, but there are peak times for calls.

Sometimes it’s easier to get through out of office hours (eg if the helpline is open until 8pm) or at weekends. Some finance providers have dedicated helplines for different kinds of students, so make sure you call the right one for you.

If you’re calling on behalf of a student (eg you’re a parent, partner or carer) the helplines will only be able to give you general information – they can’t discuss the details of a particular student because that information is protected by the Data Protection Act. However, students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can choose to allow a nominated person to access information on their behalf. Here’s more information about this for England, for Wales and for Northern Ireland.

Here are some links to the helpline details of each student finance provider, including the opening hours:

I've received my final notice of entitlement but the amount I'm being given is lower than I expected – is this right?

In order to process as many applications as possible before the start of term, the student finance providers may assess applicants for non-means tested support first, and go back at a later date to look at entitlement to means-tested grants and loans.

So your entitlement letter may only reflect the non means-tested elements of support – eg the loan for fees and a percentage of the loan for maintenance.

If you’ve applied for means-tested support, you should be assessed for this in due course and you’ll receive an updated notice of entitlement when this happens. If you still believe this assessment isn’t correct, speak to an adviser at your university, college or students’ union and ask them to help you verify the decision.

My student finance provider has lost some documents I sent them, or they say they never received them – what can I do?

NUS has received lots of complaints from students and parents about lost documentation.  Unfortunately there's no quick way to fix this, apart from persevering with the helpline.

Make sure you keep copies of all the correspondence you send, and post any important documents by registered delivery in strong envelopes, taped closed to make sure they arrive OK.

I think my student finance provider has made a mistake – they've told me I'm not eligible for funding but I'm sure I am!

NUS has heard of many cases where students have been given the wrong information about whether or not they’re eligible for support in the first place.

If you think this is the case, speak to the advice centre at your university, college or students' union in the first instance, because they’ll be able to tell you if the decision is correct according to the student support regulations.

Here are some more details about appeals:

I want to make a complaint about how my student finance provider has dealt with my application – who should I speak to?

All the student finance providers have a complaints procedure – sometimes through the Student Loans Company (SLC):

If you’re still unsatisfied once you’ve exhausted the initial procedure, in most cases you can escalate your complaint, and if you’re unhappy with this you can refer to an independent assessor, who acts as a final court of appeal. However, these procedures aren't necessarily the best way to get a quick resolution to your problem, so if you’re making a complaint don't rely on it to get you funding more quickly.

This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.