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March 25, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Moans, Groans, Loans, And Phones

Missing link frustrating students

“Welcome to Studylink” is not what most students felt when they contacted Studylink this summer, with 41 per cent of calls going unanswered in the past five months.

This represents 296,000 calls to the centre. StudyLink phone lines have received over 426,000 calls from students about loans, allowances and living costs. The beginning of the university year is StudyLink’s busiest time, with over 310,000 applications requiring processing. This year,
StudyLink employed an extra 330 staff to ease the situation, which has improved on last year’s count of 402,000 unanswered calls by 26 per cent.

Students have been left frustrated, with some unable to pay rent, purchase course requirements, or being removed from their courses. Salient spoke to a third-year digital Media design student, whose timetabling had suffered as a result of StudyLink’s phone woes. “I sorted my timetable out early; it was perfect and everything was sussed, but StudyLink didn’t pay my loans in time, so some papers I can’t do till next trimester, and for the others I got the worst time slots,” said the student.

VUWSA President Rory McCourt lamented the disruption caused to students’ years and schedules. “What we’re finding is [that] students who are
out of luck with StudyLink coming through with their allowance or student living costs, they’re facing choices like spending nights at the Night
shelter, desperately hunting for flats — but it’s very hard to get into a flat when you can’t front up with the cash,” said McCourt.

Head of Studylink Susan Kosmala has assured students that StudyLink is addressing the problems. “That’s not the service we are aiming to provide. We are continuing to make improvements to answer as many calls as we can,” she said. McCourt blamed underfunding, and placed the onus on the Government to improve StudyLink’s services. “studylink is doing their best but the Government needs to acknowledge that this is a problem year in and year out, and it needs more resourcing,” said McCourt.

New Zealanders owe $13 billion under the student loan scheme managed by StudyLink, a figure which increases by $1 billion annually.

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