Thousands of students who have lived in the UK since childhood are subjected to a regime described as even harsher than the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ tactics when applying for student loans, report says .
About 8,000 students per year with an immigration status known as Limited Stay Leave (LLR) apply to Student Finance England (SFE) for funds to enable them to fill places at the university.
Students are often people of color from countries such as Jamaica, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Ghana. They have lived in the UK much of their life with their families.
Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds, have excelled in school, are considered the brightest and best of their generation, and have secured places in college to study subjects such as law and medicine.
Under the limited residence permit rules, students are eligible for loans if they have lived half their life in the UK and had an LLR for at least three years. But according to the report, they sometimes find that even evidence provided by the Home Office confirming their eligibility is rejected by the SFE.
The report, The Deintegration Generation, by We belong, a youth organization that advocates for the rights of young migrants, documents dozens of examples of successful students either being wrongly rejected for loans by SFE or subjected to damaging delays in accessing those loans, leading them to sometimes having to give up their studies or not being able to get started at all.
Chrisann Jarrett, CEO of We Belong, said: “We are seeing cases where SFE is more demanding and hostile towards young migrants with limited leave to stay same as the Home Office.
“It certainly makes good sense that a letter from the Home Office should be accepted as proof that a student has lived in the UK long enough to qualify for a loan. Evidence that is good enough for the Home Office should surely be good enough for Student Finance England. “
SFE is a partnership between the Department of Education and the Public Student Loans Corporation (SLC) to provide financial support to students. A spokesperson for SLC admitted that sometimes they were wrong and apologized.
Cases identified in the report include:
A young woman who had to submit 200 pages of proof of how long she had lived in the UK before a loan was finally granted six months after starting her studies.
A 17-year-old whose loan application was rejected due to a 17-day hiatus between his first and second LLR periods due to a mistake made by his lawyer. The Home Office accepted that it was not his fault and granted a renewal of his immigration status on an “ongoing basis”, but SFE said it was a break ” illegal “and therefore was not entitled to a loan.
A 21-year-old Jamaican who came to the UK at the age of three and whose loan applications were repeatedly and wrongly rejected by SFE. He was threatened with eviction from his student accommodation and prevented from attending classes. The error was corrected after five months after the intervention of a lawyer and a social worker from We Belong.
A spokesperson for SLC said, “SLC does not set the eligibility criteria for student funding. We process requests in accordance with the requirements set out by the government in legislation. For residency cases, the regulatory requirements are complex and while we strive to process each request correctly, we recognize that in a small number of cases errors do occur.
“In such cases, we apologize and seek to resolve issues as quickly as possible in accordance with regulatory requirements.
“Over the past year, we have made significant investments in improving the support we provide to customers for whom the application process is most difficult, and we are working with We Belong to improve the information provided online and in our call centers, to ensure that we are providing the right support to candidates.