SAAS delays loans to students

Louise Wilson

Changes to the technology used to process SAAS applicants faster this year has led to thousands of students being left without living expenses since September.

The Scottish government had previously claimed that applicants who had yet to receive their funds in September/October were those who had applied late. This was not the case, and 5936 students were still to receive their loans at the end of October, despite many of them having applied before the 30th June deadline.

The chaos led to SAAS receiving up to 1000 calls a day from angry and frustrated students. Phone lines were closed for one day a week in order to process remaining applications faster. This move was heavily criticised so SAAS later made the decision to open for one weekend in October to speed up processing.

Around 15 students at Glasgow University had problems with getting their bursaries and loans from SAAS. Students had been asked to resend proof of income and other such information, due to paperwork being mislaid with the installation of the new system.

Jack Donaghy, a third year Public Policy students, is still waiting on his loan. Mr Donaghy applied after the 30th June deadline, but due to the backlog of students that hadn’t received their SAAS payments, his own application was pushed further back in the queue. Mr Donaghy has now received three award notices, the latter two seriously miscalculating the amount he should receive.

He said: “After phoning SAAS dozens of times over several days and failing to get through I eventually got to speak to someone and they said that it was likely the person processing my application thought that I had misinterpreted the form, and that when I had put down that I expected to receive £100 in bank interest this year they thought I might just have £100 in a bank account, and they “just wanted to double check”. Of course this meant that my letter to them clarifying the situation would now be in a month long queue of correspondence backlog, and in the meantime I’d be getting no SAAS payments. I find this situation especially bizarre because regardless of whether I have £100 in the bank or expect £100 in interest, neither scenario would be anywhere near enough to affect the amount of student loan I’m entitled to.

“It now looks like I’ll be waiting until the new year to get my loan through, if I ever get it. To top it all off, when I started querying on Twitter the minister responsible for SAAS, Mike Russell, as to why the organisation has been known to be so poor for so long yet nothing has been done about it, he blocked me.”

However, most Glasgow University students have now had their applications processed. The government is to launch an investigation into why the new system failed to dramatically. Those students who have yet to hear from SAAS have been told there is now a three or four week waiting list.

Craig Angus, VP Media and Communications, said: “The delays have been frustrating, and students have been let down badly by SAAS this year. The biggest problem seems to have been with communication – a problem exemplified by the decision to close phonelines on Tuesdays. The situation absolutely needs to improve, and we’re working with other academic institutions in Glasgow to ensure that it does.”