Service with a smile – Student Loans Company plans friendlier tone as interest rates set to soar

The Student Loans Company (SLC) is considering client recommendations to change the tone of its correspondence with graduates, including the suggestion to adopt a “librarian friendly” manner.

It has also been suggested that the public body, which comes into contact with 8 million people in the UK each year, wishes the students well in their studies.

A spokesman for SLC, which is trying to improve its “customer experience”, said the ideas were “widely considered”. But such a move could prove controversial, with student loan interest rates set to soar this year amid a wider cost of living crisis.

The highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank has warned that students and graduates in England could pay up to 12% interest on their loans this autumn.

The recommendations emerged after the organization set up a customer panel to provide feedback on its services. Panel members suggested that the current tone of SLC communications seemed distant and “lacks personal touches, such as wishing students well in their studies.”

Minutes from a recent SLC board meeting report that the panel felt the tone should instead aspire “to sound like a helpful, friendly librarian.”

The council also recently learned that improving the customer experience was a top priority for Education Minister Michelle Donelan.

The SLC approves approximately 2 million applications for student funding each year. But overall, the company speaks to around 8 million people a year, including those who are in the process of repaying their loans.

There have been a flurry of warnings in recent days about the effect the current crisis will have on living standards in the UK.

Earlier this week, inflation hit a 40-year high and the Governor of the Bank of England issued a warning of ‘apocalyptic’ food shortages that could be imminent following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, Vice President for Higher Education at the National Union of Students, said, “Students need more than just a change of tone; they need urgent student loan support. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, it is simply incomprehensible that the maximum interest rate on student loans will increase to 12% later this year.

“It is brutal and will deter thousands of students from going to university. It will also bring unprecedented uncertainty for the millions of graduates who are already repaying their loans, with thousands of pounds added to their balance sheet.

She added: “Students are not cash cows, and we cannot continue to bear the brunt of this government’s regressive actions which have left millions exposed to hardship. Education is a right for all, not a commodity that can be bought and sold for individual gain.

The SLC is supposed to ensure that its communications are simple and easy to engage with for customers. Sources have suggested that the company is looking to engage in a constant process of improvement.

The SLC is technically a non-departmental public body and is primarily owned by the Department of Education.

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