Northern Ireland graduates have overpaid loans of more than £10m in six years
It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed some students here were leaving university with debts of up to £100,000.
According to the Student Loans Company (SLC), student loan overpayments occur due to the nature of the loan repayment schedule, known as income contingent repayment (ICR).
Until April 2019, the SLC received student loan repayment information from HMRC every year, and as a result of this process some borrowers nearing the end of their repayments could overpay, the SLC said.
Since April 2019, HMRC has sent weekly student loan repayment information to the SLC as reported by employers, known as more frequent data sharing, which the SLC says has helped reduce too many -paid, but they can still happen unless a borrower switches to direct debit. scheme when eligible to do so.
According to the latest figures, in the financial year 2020/21 a total of 2,724 graduates in Northern Ireland overpaid their student loan repayments by up to £1.26million. The average overpayment per graduate was £450.
The figures also show that 1,619 graduates received refunds in 2020/21 and 1,105 graduates were awaiting refunds, as of January 31 this year. Since 2015/16, overpayments by NI students have totaled £10,268,822. The total amount of overpayments has fallen in recent years, from just over £2m in 2016/17.
The SLC said: “Over the past few years, a number of initiatives have been introduced to reduce overpayments and improve the refund process for SLC customers, including the introduction of the online refund service, automatic reimbursements and encouraging the adoption of the automatic debit system.
“The frequency of data received from HMRC has also been reduced from one year to one week. In addition, further campaigns have been carried out to contact customers who have overpaid, advising them to claim their refund. As a result, these changes reduced overpayments and the reported decrease reflects this.”
Ellen Fearon, of the NUS-USI student body, said the SLC needs to make sure it puts “as much emphasis on locating graduates who have overpaid as it does on finding those it believes owe it.” money”.
“In many cases, the SLC will no longer have accurate contact details to alert people who owe them money, so we encourage anyone who has repaid their loans to consider contacting the SLC to see if they are eligible. to a refund and make sure their contact details are correct,” she said.
“It’s also important for graduates to check their payslips and student loan statements to understand when the loan expires, which can remedy any overpayments. Ultimately, the SLC needs to reduce the incidence of overpayments by updating its systems and working with HMRC.
Alliance party economics spokesman Stewart Dickson added: “It’s hard enough for graduates to repay their student loans without some people overpaying. Better systems should be in place. to prevent this from happening in the first place. Refunds should be made promptly and I would encourage former students to check repayment schedules once they begin.
The SLC said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for customers in repayment to manage their student loan accounts and over the past two years we have made a number of improvements to help customers avoid overpayments.
“Our Prevention of Overpayments (POR) program enables customers to switch to Direct Debit in past payment years because overpayments are entirely preventable. In addition, our new Online Refunds (ORS) service gives customers customers much more control over their refund journey.”
The news comes after figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph showed that the level of student debt for NI graduates exceeds £100,000 in some cases. One person here has a student debt balance of over £100,000, while over 4,000 others have debts between £50,000 and £99,000.
Figures released via a freedom of information request show the top five student loan balances for students in Northern Ireland are £100,781; £96,218; £93,719; £91,542; and £91,074.