Debt to be written off for 300 loans learners

Loans for nearly 300 learners worth more than half a million pounds will be written off by the Student Loans Company, FE Week can reveal.

A further 423 students could also be in scope for a loan cancellation, which would bring the total value of the debt write-off to more than £1.3 million, according to a Department for Education response to a freedom of information request.

The education secretary has been able to write-off advanced learner loans for learners left in debt when their provider goes bust since July 1 2019, following a change in legislation prompted by FE Week’s Save Our Adult Education campaign.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) started writing to the 268 students identified by the Department for Education as being in scope for loan cancellation after this newspaper reported last month that no learners had been contacted or had their loans cancelled since the policy was introduced.

Asim Shaheen, who was studying for a QCF in hospitality at John Frank Training and could not complete his training after the firm went into liquidation in 2016, is one of the learners who received a letter.

The correspondence, which was shared with FE Week, said: “The Department for Education has considered the specific circumstances relating to your loan liability.

“They’ve come to the decision that we can now confirm the loan you received for the course you were unable to finish is eligible to be cancelled.”

Shaheen will have £7,867.75 written off by the government. All added interest is also eligible for cancellation.

According to the letter, recipients need to complete and return a signed form to process the cancellation otherwise their loans will be eligible to be repaid from 6 April 2020.

“It’s a relief, I think justice has been done,” said Shaheen, who travelled to Westminster to help launch FE Week’s Save Our Adult Education campaign in February 2017.

He continued: “With me going all the way to the Parliament, it is a great achievement and a great win against the system.

“Thanks to FE Week and thanks to the government and government bodies for taking note. For once the public has actually won instead of lost.”

Mussarrat Bashir, another former hospitality student at John Frank Training, is also in scope of the policy.

She was forced to make loan repayments despite a policy of deferment being introduced for students left with no qualifications when their providers went bust.

The government first asked the SLC to defer loan repayments for affected learners during the April 2017 to March 2018 tax year, and extended deferrals in subsequent tax years.

Bashir had previously called the loan a “restriction” and said it was “stressful when you’ve got other pressures like family”.

She added it had been “dragging on for a very long time now. We should have the assurance it is done and dusted”.

A spokesperson for SLC confirmed Bashir “was placed in deferment in 2017” and said “we apologise that repayments were taken from the customer during the tax year 18/19 and we will ensure that these are refunded”.

Bashir described the update as “great news” and thanked FE Week for the help in her case.

Last year West London College agreed to pay off almost £250,000 in loans debt for 59 victims of a subcontracting scandal after FE Week revealed learners were being forced to repay thousands of pounds each for courses they did not complete through private provider Edudo, which went into voluntary liquidation in 2017.